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The BBC's Jimmy Armfield
"A match United will reflect on if they retain the title"
 real 28k

Saturday, 29 January, 2000, 17:27 GMT
Man Utd take top spot

Juninho's second-half penalty was saved by Bosnich


Man Utd 1-0 Middlesbrough

David Beckham secured Manchester United's place at the top of the Premiership with a late second-half goal against Middlesbrough at Old Trafford.

Boro were reduced to 10-men when German international Christian Ziege was sent-off for a second-bookable offence.

The visitors struggled in virtually every aspect of play, including a missed penalty as Mark Bosnich denied Juninho from the spot.


Key moments
10 mins: Jaap Stam heads straight at Schwarzer
25 mins: Schwarzer parries a low shot from Beckham
60mins: Ziege sent off for second-bookable offence
68 mins: Bosnich saves a Juninho penalty
87 mins: Beckham seals the three points
At time the game resembled an exhibition match, such was the visitors' inability to maintain possession.

But if Boro found it difficult to get forward, United struggled to find the goal.

In the end the champions had to rely on a more-than hopeful shot from Beckham which wriggled past Mark Schwarzer - one Boro player who had performed superbly all afternoon.

United should have gone a goal behind when Boro were awarded a second-half penalty.

Referee Andy D'Urso immediately pointed to the spot when Jaap Stam brought Juninho down with only Bosnich to beat.


Bobson Brian Robson will be rightly frustrated at the result
Unfortunately for the visitors, he failed when the United keeper saved low to his right to deny Boro an unlikely opening score.

From the outset the treble-winners looked like taking the points. United threatened first through Dwight Yorke and then Jaap Stam whose header was directed too close to Schwarzer.

United's next break was more decisive as a Yorke burst fed Ryan Giggs on the left whose inside pass eluded Sheringham only for Beckham to fire a shot Schwarzer did well to block.

Roy Keane's drive forward from midfield almost broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark as he shrugged aside two challenge before testing the visiting keeper with a crisp shot.

Boro were defending firmly, but were almost beaten by an astonishing Beckham flick direct from a Schwarzer kick which helped set up Yorke on the left who shot into the side-netting.

Stalemate continues

The stalemate continued after the break, though Giggs and Beckham continued to find space out wide.

Keane launched a fabulous drive from outside the area, but it swept inches past Schwarzer's post.

Dennis Irwin should have converted from just yards when Keane tapped down a Giggs cross, but the Irishman's side-footed shot curled wide.

It was one-way traffic and when Ziege ran into Beckham on the edge of the area he had the dubious honour of being the first Premiership player to be sent off in 2000.

The game was in danger of running away from the visitors and seconds later Schwarzer was yellow-carded for time wasting.

United were now camped in the Boro half, but still Bryan Robson's side held on.

Paul Scholes replaced Nicky Butt midway through the half but his arrival sparked an upturn in Boro's fortunes.

A long ball was fed to Juninho who raced into the area.

It was Boro's fist real chance of the half and when Stam took the Brazilian's legs from beneath him the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty.

Keane's over-the-top protestations earned him a yellow-card, but he need not have worried.

Bosnich went the right way to deny Juninho, before United quickly began another wave of attacks.

Subsitute Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Giggs, Stam and Cole all came close and but for some almighty defending from the Boro backline, United could have been four goals up.

With one man down, Boro's effort was heroic, but it could not and did not last.

With just 10 minutes to go Beckham hit a hopeful effort low into Shwarzer's near post and though the keeper was there to retrieve it, the ball bobbled into the back of the net.

Teams:

Man Utd: Bosnich, G. Neville, Stam, Silvestre, Irwin, Beckham, Keane, Butt, Giggs, Yorke, Sheringham. Subs: Van Der Gouw, P. Neville, Cole, Scholes, Solskjaer.

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Fleming, Festa, Pallister, Cooper, Ziege, Juninho, Ince, Summerbell, Ricard, Campbell. Subs: Beresford, Maddison, Armstrong, Ormerod, Gavin. Referee: A D'Urso (Billericay)

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See also:
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Links to other FA Carling Premiership stories are at the foot of the page.