Football

Ugly clashes mar United's win

Scuffle between Bailly and Gestede escalates into tunnel fracas

Manchester United players were accused of sparking an ugly clash in the tunnel in a stormy aftermath to their 3-1 win at Middlesbrough on Sunday.

United's hard-fought victory ended with rival players separated by security staff in the tunnel.

The tunnel fracas appeared to have been sparked by a stoppage-time bust-up between United defender Eric Bailly and Middlesbrough striker Rudy Gestede.

It initially appeared that the duo had bitten each other before replays showed it was only a heated scuffle.

"We had a few words together, it was nothing major," said Gestede. "He gave me a hug and a kiss, that's it. I didn't feel anything.

"Ben (Gibson, Middlesbrough's captain) thought he bit me, so that's why he reacted like he did. But I told him now we were just talking, there was no problem."

The melee ensued as the players walked into the tunnel, where punches were reportedly thrown. Gibson and United's former England midfielder Ashley Young had to be restrained by teammates.

United manager Jose Mourinho declined comment, but Middlesbrough's caretaker boss Steve Agnew said: "What triggered it off? I don't know. I've got a group of very well-behaved players so I can assure you it wouldn't be one of ours."

Mourinho had enflamed matters before the game by suggesting he "knew the names" of the players he claimed had been responsible for the departure of Aitor Karanka, his former Real Madrid assistant who was sacked as Middlesbrough boss last week.

The Portuguese headed down the tunnel at the final whistle without acknowledging his opposite number, though Agnew confirmed the pair had shaken hands in the tunnel afterwards.

"Was this justice for Karanka?" said Mourinho.

"I think justice for Karanka is the work he did here, people can never delete that. He took the club from the brink of League One to the Premier League.

"I know what I'm saying, he could have left for a bigger club and yet he stayed then in the end he loses his job.

"Despite all that's happened, I still think he'll be unhappy we have won, because he wants this club to stay in the Premier League."

United, who ended a 19-week stay in sixth by climbing to fifth after this win, retain two avenues to next season's Champions League - by winning the Europa League or finishing in the top four of the EPL.

Mourinho said: "Do I prefer to qualify for the Champions League by finishing fourth or winning Europa League?

"I prefer Europa League. There's a prestige to winning a trophy." - WIRE SERVICES