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Monday, 10 April, 2000, 21:36 GMT 22:36 UK
Man Utd claim seven-goal classic
Middlesbrough 3-4 Manchester United
Manchester United inched a step closer to the league title with victory over Middlesbrough in a madcap match at the Riverside.
Sir Alex Ferguson's men are now just seven points away from winning the Premiership yet again, at the expense of Boro whose seven-match undefeated run nonetheless ended in a blaze of glory.
Middlesbrough enjoyed a one-goal advantage at half-time thanks to the prodigious Andy Campbell.
But Ryan Giggs restored parity immediately after the restart and in an incident-packed second-half, Andy Cole, Paul Scholes and Quinton Fortune put the match beyond doubt.
A spirited late charge by Boro produced goals for former United star Paul Ince and a beautiful solo effort from Juninho to ensure that the quality of the match outshone the ugly clashes in the closing minutes.
Ryan Giggs made the early running for the visitors, threatening twice in the opening 10 minutes, but an outstanding defensive display by Colin Cooper kept him contained.
The defender suffered what was described as a "bad shin injury" - 12 stitches before the doctor lost count - after quarter of an hour and was replaced by Gianluca Festa.
Giggs immediately took advantage with a quick break down the right and a perfectly-delivered cross through traffic, only for Dwight Yorke to somehow find the keeper from seven yards out.
Boro responded to their lucky escape with an inspired 15 minute spell that produced one goal, but it could so easily have been three.
An innocuous looking ball fell to Hamilton Ricard, but he managed to scoop it over Gary Neville and into the path of Campbell, who volleyed past Mark Bosnich.
United barely had time to register the score before Boro were pressing hard again and only a brilliant reflex save by the Manchester keeper kept Brian Deane's header out.
Six minutes later, Ricard soared for a thunderous header that this time beat Bosnich, but the score was disallowed for an earlier foul.
While Boro protested, Manchester raced up to the other end of the pitch and only some frantic covering back saved an equaliser.
David Beckham launched a trademark, curling cross in from the right and Giggs sent the ball over the bar.
Then a Scholes' rocket rebounded kindly for the onrushing Cole, who also sent his left-footed shot blazing over the top.
Middlebrough survived the onslaught to go into the interval with their narrow advantage intact.
It lasted just 55 seconds after the restart as Gary Neville's massive throw-in from deep on the right was only half-cleared by a Paul Ince header.
The ball fell to the feet of Giggs outside the area and he drilled it to the left of the stranded Mark Schwarzer.
Less than a minute later, Cole almost made it 2-1 but his shot went wide.
The tempo of the match had swung firmly in United's favour and Giggs' sublime angled shot was marginally deflected just inches beyond the reach of Yorke on 58 minutes.
A header from the resultant corner was well kept out by Schwarzer, but he was beaten a minute later when Beckham, breaking down the right, showed great vision to pick out Cole on a run down the left.
The long lateral pass was timed to perfection and Cole finally found the net with his most difficult attempt of the night, squeezing the ball under the keeper by the left upright.
By now Manchester were rampant and Boro had lost all shape, but few would have expected the next goal to come in the astonishing form that it did in the 74th minute.
Juninho had just cleared off the line when Scholes picked up the ball 25 yards out and launched a breathtaking swerving shot that found the top right corner, leaving Schwarzer for dead.
A series of ill-tempered clashes saw United captain Roy Keane yellow carded and substituted after he became involved in scuffles with Christian Ziege and Mark Summerbell, who were also both booked.
An incident-packed final 10 minutes produced a flurry of three goals - two of them for Boro when they looked dead and buried.
First, Ince capitalised on some sloppy defending to head a corner home at the near post off the hand of Bosnich.
United immediately responded with a goal for Fortune and despite prolonged haranguing by the Boro players, the linesman refused to back down from a controversial decision not to give the South African offside. Video replays showed he was right.
The match finished with a cheeky solo effort by Juninho, who again capitalised on loose man-marking by the Manchester defence to squeeze off a shot from the top left edge of the area that beat Bosnich at the right post.
Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Fleming, Vickers, Cooper, Ziege, Deane, Mustoe, Ince, Summerbell, Campbell, Ricard.
Man Utd: Bosnich, G. Neville, Stam, Berg, Irwin, Beckham, Keane, Scholes, Giggs, Yorke, Cole. Subs: Butt, Sheringham, Van Der Gouw, Fortune, Silvestre. Referee: P Durkin (Dorset)
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Links to other FA Carling Premiership stories are at the foot of the page.
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