Manchester United will end 2016 just one point off the Premier League’s top four if they beat Middlesbrough at Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve.
The form book and United’s head-to-head record against Boro both suggest a home win is on the cards.
However, Boro – who will have ex-United goalkeeper Victor Valdes at one end and former Man City striker Alvaro Negredo at the other – could spring a surprise, as they did when they held Arsenal to a draw at the Emirates Stadium in October.
Boro also knocked United out of the League Cup last season.
All-time Premier League head-to-head
16 United wins
5 Boro wins
Lee Mason will be the man in charge at Old Trafford. It’s his first United game since this fixture in last season’s League Cup, when Boro beat the Red Devils on penalties after a 0-0 draw.
Mr Mason has reffed Boro twice since then – in their 3-1 defeat to Everton in September and November’s 2-2 draw at Leicester.
In nine Premier League games this season, Mason has dished out 34 yellow cards and one red.
United manager Jose Mourinho told his club’s official website on the eve of this game that captain Wayne Rooney is still sidelined with a thigh injury.
Mourinho also said that Luke Shaw will not start, despite recently returning to full training.
Boro will be without Antonio Barragan, who serves a one-game ban, and Viktor Fischer, who has a knee injury that is expected to keep him out until the middle of January.
Likely Man United starting XI
Valencia, Jones, Rojo, Darmian
Mkhitaryan, Pogba, Lingard
Likely Middlesbrough starting XI
Nsue, Chambers, Gibson, Friend
Traore, Roon, Clayton, Forshaw, Ramirez