Jose Mourinho hailed the attitude and desire of his players as Manchester United ran out 3-1 winners over Middlesbrough at the Riverside.

Manchester United got back on track for a top-four finish, as they overcame Middlesbrough 3-1 at the Riverside in Steve Agnew’s first match in charge as caretaker boss on Sunday. The result saw the Red Devils leapfrog Arsenal and Everton into fifth in the Premier League table, three adrift of Liverpool with a game in hand.

Marouane Fellaini headed the visitors into a well deserved lead at the half-hour mark, as he met Ashley Young’s pinpoint cross at the back post to score past Victor Valdes, after the former Manchester United goalkeeper denied his former club with a brilliant save from point blank range.

Jesse Lingard doubled the advantage for Manchester United in the 62nd minute, as he unleashed a fierce long-range strike that nestled into the top corner. Rudy Gestede then pulled one back for Middlesbrough with an opportune strike following an error by Chris Smalling to set up a frantic final ten minutes.

But Antonio Valencia rounded off the win for Jose Mourinho’s side by scoring his first Premier League goal in three years after capitalising on Valdes’ unfortunate slip deep into injury time. In the aftermath of the match Jose Mourinho was delighted with his side’s performance as he addressed his post-match interview.

“The attitude, the desire and our way of thinking [was great],” he said. “We did not have A, B, C, D, E, F or G, but we have L, M, N, O, P and these guys gave absolutely everything.  It is fantastic because we managed in the same week to go to the quarter-finals of the Europa League, which is an important competition for us.

“At the same time we got these three points that keep us in the race for the fourth position. So we still have two doors open to play Champions League football next season and that is a good thing of the week.”

Mourinho also had special words of praise for the two protagonists of the first goal, Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini. He added, “I was expecting this kind of answer. I knew that people like Ashley Young, Carrick, Fellaini -I knew that Fellaini played against Rostov and for 40 minutes he was amazing.

“His form his high. Ashley Young played against Rostov and at Stamford Bridge. I knew the guys were ready to answer. So it was very good; I think we played really well.” Indeed, Mourinho needs his fringe players to step up in order to match their objectives for the remainder of the season, as they did today.

Club football takes fortnight-long break for a round of international fixtures. And on the other side of the break, Manchester United will be hosting West Bromwich Albion to continue their charge for a place in the Top 4.