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Saturday, 23 March, 2002, 16:56 GMT
Man Utd slip up
Diego Forlan skips a challenge from Robbie Mustoe
Diego Forlan failed to score again for Man Utd
Manchester United 0-1 Middlesbrough
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Manchester United's hopes of retaining their Premiership crown suffered a severe blow as they were beaten at home by Middlesbrough.

Alen Boksic scored the winner for the visitors early on after Juan Sebastian Veron had lost the ball close to his own area.

The result means that Arsenal are just a point behind United with two games in hand.

The initiative at the top of the table has now clearly switched to Arsene Wenger's men.

David Beckham is booked for dissent
Beckham was booked for dissent

United improved as the game wore on but were frustrated by a combination of poor finishing and excellent defending from Boro.

England internationals Gareth Southgate and Ugo Ehiogu were outstanding in the centre of defence for the visitors.

The result was a triumph for Steve McClaren, who left Old Trafford last summer to become manager of Boro.

United started sluggishly and the way they gifted Boro their opener was indicative of the malaise afflicting their game.

Veron was caught in possession 25 yards from goal by Benito Carbone.

I would say that Arsenal are now strong favourites - our game against them will probably take place in the last week of the season which may give us an opportunity to have a go at them
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson
The diminutive Italian shaped to shoot, but played a clever reverse pass to Boksic, who slotted home from five yards.

The home crowd waited for their side to respond, but United struggled to create chances.

Ryan Giggs did have an excellent opportunity to equalise after half an hour, but he screwed his shot wide from eight yards after finding himself one-on-one with Mark Schwarzer.

United became increasingly frustrated as the half wore on.

David Beckham was booked for dissent and Veron was shown the yellow card for fouling Luke Wiltshire.

Winning is always satisfying and I'm very satisfied, but we've still got work to do in the league and we can't rest on our laurels
Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren
The decision enraged United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, who berated the linesman.

United improved after the interval, particularly when Paul Scholes came on for Veron on the hour.

The England midfielder headed wide from six yards out near the end, just minutes after Ruud van Nistelrooy saw a drilled shot saved by Mark Schwarzer.

United switched Laurent Blanc from defence to attack in the closing stages in a desperate bid for an equaliser, but Boro held on to win.

Man Utd: Barthez, Gary Neville, Johnsen, Blanc, Silvestre, Beckham, Butt, Veron (Scholes 58), Giggs, Van Nistelrooy, Forlan (Fortune 82).
Subs Not Used: Carroll, Phil Neville, O'Shea.

Booked: Beckham, Veron, Silvestre, van Nistelrooy.

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Stockdale, Ehiogu, Southgate, Queudrue, Greening (Wilkshire 21), Ince, Mustoe, Whelan, Boksic (Windass 79), Carbone.
Subs Not Used: Crossley, Nemeth, Gavin.

Booked: Queudrue, Ince.

Att: 67,683

Ref: S Bennett (Kent).

BBC Sport's Peter Slater
"The title pendulum has swung back towards Highbury"
Man Utd boss Alex Ferguson
"We did not deserve to win"
Middlesbrough boss Steve McClaren
"We had all the ingredients today"
Links to more Eng Prem stories are at the foot of the page.


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