Manchester United are within two points of retaining their Under-21 Premier League title after a 1-0 victory against Middlesbrough tonight.

A Paddy McNair goal in the second half means that a victory against Tottenham at White Hart Lane next week will seal a second consecutive title for Warren Joyce’s men.

The headlines pre-match centered on Wayne Rooney’s return from injury – the first-team skipper played an hour tonight, displaying some good touches and showing some good link-up play, but he will admit that it was a quiet night for him.

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A healthy crowd of 6,132 turned up at Old Trafford tonight to see the Under-21s in action, but they will have been disappointed by the football on display in the first-half.

The best chance in the first-half perhaps came from Middlesbrough – an uncharacteristically heavy touch from Ro-Shaun Williams allowed Arnel Jakupovic to latch on, but the shot was tame and saved by Sam Johnstone.

Another talking point of the first-half was a horror challenge on Joe Rothwell by Boro captain Jonathan Burn that went unpunished – the midfielder was eventually forced off, unable to shake off the knock he picked up – and replays showed that Burn had went in studs up on the 21-year-old.

The action picked up in the second-half, with Andreas Pereira, who had come on for Rothwell in the first half, dictating matters for the Reds – and it was the Brazilian who was the assist maker for United’s goal.

The Brazilian picked up the ball after Axel Tuanzebe had made a storming run into the Boro half, delivered a looped cross in and McNair, who had ghosted in unmarked from deep, picked up the ball in acres of space and coolly slammed the ball past keeper Joe Fryer.

Pereira could have even had a second for United at the end, but his curler cannoned off the crossbar. All in all, it was a deserved victory for the Reds, who were dominant in possession and mostly in control against a resolute Boro defence.