The sides’ final match before the international break always promised to be an intriguing encounter. For Boro, it was their first since Aitor Karanka’s departure while United were reeling from key absentees and a demanding schedule.
Jose Mourinho said the fixture pile-up meant United would probably lose at the Riverside, but they emerged victorious, with Lingard’s powerful drive the outstanding moment in their victory.
The England winger took aim from 25 yards and found the top right-hand corner with an outstanding effort, deservedly adding to Marouane Fellaini’s first-half header.
It had looked like United’s 600th Premier League win would be straightforward against goal-shy Boro, only for Rudy Gestede to capitalise on lax defending to reduce the deficit – his side’s first league goal since January 31.
Belief grew around the Riverside only for an embarrassing moment to settle the match as Antonio Valencia capitalised on former United team-mate Victor Valdes’s slip to wrap up a win that moves his side up to fifth.
Agnew was encouraged by a battling display and remains convinced his team will get the points they need when they face the teams around them in the relegation fight.
He said: “To push Manchester United all the way was something that I was really pleased with. At 2-0, that’s when the players showed their fighting spirit.
“The crowd played a massive part.
“We deserved the goal and on the balance of play at the time although there wasn’t long to go, I could only see us equalising.
“I have every confidence and every belief, all the work that goes in behind the scenes with the staff and the players, that we are more than capable of winning football matches.
“The performance was intense, it was everything you want in terms of commitment. Of course we have got to start winning football matches, but I have been in this league before and I know that one game, one win, three points can change everything.”
Middlesbrough: Valdes, Barragan, Bernardo, Gibson, Da Silva, de Roon, Clayton, Leadbitter (Gestede 67), Downing, Negredo, Ramirez (Traore 68). Unused substitutes: Guzan, Stuani, Fry, Guedioura, Forshaw.
Manchester United: de Gea, Bailly, Smalling, Jones, Young, Carrick, Fellaini, Valencia, Mata (Rojo 69), Lingard (Martial 80), Rashford (Darmian 90). Unused substitutes: Romero, Mkhitaryan, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah.
Referee: J Moss (W Yorkshire).