Jose Mourinho praised Manchester United's attitude as his side ensured they have "two doors open" to the Champions League with a 3-1 win at Middlesbrough.
Mourinho had claimed this week that a draw would be a good result for his side, given their hectic recent schedule, and he was forced into fielding something of a makeshift side at the Riverside Stadium on Sunday due to injuries and suspensions.
The manager's faith in his fringe players was rewarded, though, with Marouane Fellaini and Jesse Lingard opening up a two-goal lead before Antonio Valencia made the points safe after Rudy Gestede had halved the deficit.
With United now just three points outside the top four and into the quarter-finals of the Europa League, Mourinho is delighted to have more than one route to a Champions League return available.
"I'm super happy," he told BBC Sport. "The attitude of the boys was magnificent. I made them feel important, trusted.
"We organised the team to come here and do what we did until the second goal: defend well, don't concede, be dangerous on the counter-attack, play with the fast boys in front.
"Until two-zero, the game was the game we wanted. Then they played direct football with Gestede and [Alvaro] Negredo, we brought an extra defender in [Marcos Rojo] to cope with that, but our mistake was that we let them push.
5 - Manchester United will end the day inside the top 5 of the Premier League table for the first time in 184 days (16th Sept 2016). Climb. pic.twitter.com/bh7ORY0Vva— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 19, 2017
"You are always worried, especially when you miss chances like we did in the first half. Anything can happen with big football, with tall, direct players. It was open until the end.
"I was exactly expecting this. I knew that that answer would be positive, according to the qualities of my players. I cannot expect Marcus [Rashford] to be Zlatan [Ibrahimovic], [Michael] Carrick to be [Paul] Pogba, or Ashley Young to be [Daley] Blind. But they have their qualities.
"The good thing is that the group is really United. It's a group of friends, a group of guys, everybody fights for everybody. The spirit is fantastic.
"We have two doors open for Champions League football, so we will try for the Europa League and for fourth place in the Premier League, and see what happens."
Mourinho admits he would prefer his players to be given a rest during the international break, but is nonetheless happy to have domestic and European commitments to return to in April.
"I would prefer the break for the players, not for me," he said. "Do I need a break? Yes, I need two days. The players need more.
"Everybody goes to the national teams, everybody has two matches. Then they come back and we play West Brom on the Saturday and the Europa League is coming again.
"It's hard, but it's better to be hard but to be alive."
|Brighton break transfer record for Locadia|
|Dortmund still waiting on ´concrete´ offer for Aubameyang|
|Can will ´give everything´ at Liverpool despite Juventus talks|
|One Direction star trained with Mourinho´s Chelsea|
|Goretzka asks Schalke fans to not turn on him after agreeing Bayern deal|
|Van Persie secures return to Feyenoord|
|Conte should replace Wenger at Arsenal, claims Carragher|
|Kimmich named Germany’s 2017 Player of the Year|
|Moyes denies scouting Batshuayi and deals Chelsea blow with Carroll injury|
|No one like Ronaldinho until Messi - Guardiola lavishes praise on Brazil great|
|Simeone shrugs off mentality concerns at Atletico Madrid|
|Going for gold? Neymar meets Beckham in matching jackets|
|You think I change my mind that quick? – Klopp faithful to No.1 Karius|
|Conte backs Morata to overcome disciplinary concerns|
|Lloris a doubt for Southampton game, confirms Pochettino|
|Klopp doubts Alexis Sanchez tug-of-war decided by money|
|Conte admits Pedro dived|
|Valencia tie down Torres amid Real Madrid, Barcelona reports|
|Congratulations! Guardiola offers well wishes to United-bound Sanchez|
|Pele pulls out of London event amid conflicting health reports|
|Conte would be ´happy´ for transfer help|
|Sanchez to United not done at all, insists Mourinho|
|Emery refuses to indulge Neymar-Cavani penalty debate|
|Goretzka chose Bayern over England, Spain and Italy – Heynckes|
|I would reject such players – Heynckes slams ´selfish´ Aubameyang|
|Western Sydney Wanderers 0 Melbourne Victory 3: Barbarouses extends purple patch|
|Conte likes Dzeko but Chelsea have made no offer, says agent|
|Goretzka´s Bayern move good for Bundesliga, suggests Rummenigge|
|Walcott left Arsenal with his things in bin bags|
|Schalke confirm Goretzka will join Bayern|
|Sergi Roberto renews Barca deal until 2022|
|Fernandinho seals extended Manchester City contract|
|Ceballos knee knock to be assessed after Real Madrid Copa win|
|Hamsik has no doubts over Napoli future|
|Corchia determined to repay Montella´s faith at Sevilla|
|Arsenal or Manchester United – who wins from the Sanchez-Mkhitaryan deal?|
|I would love to coach PSG – Mancini|
|Merson: Mkhitaryan will be a sensation at Arsenal|
|Wins over substance for Varane and Real Madrid|
|Arsenal´s Giroud the answer for Chelsea, says Parlour|
|Wenger: Sanchez exit won´t hurt like Van Persie|
|Zidane hopes late Leganes win is turning point for Real Madrid|
|De Gea happy to delay Man Utd contract talks|
|Leganes 0 Real Madrid 1: Asensio´s late goal lifts pressure on Zidane in Copa quarter-final|
|Toulalan follows Gourvennec out of Bordeaux|
|Dortmund´s Durm suffers torn ankle ligaments|
|Chelsea send Nathan to Belenenses on loan|
|Chelsea in talks over deal for Roma full-back Emerson|
|Gravel for breakfast but no worms on Dyche´s menu|
|Dybala is no Messi - Laudrup thinks comparisons are unfair|
|Dortmund leave Aubameyang out amid Arsenal links|
|Koulibaly would stay at Napoli ´forever´|
|Neymar´s PSG contract has no release clause, lawyer claims|
|Robben relaxed over Bayern contract talks as other clubs circle|
|Henderson returns to Liverpool training|
|Football´s biggest release clauses - Pique joins Messi, Ronaldo and LaLiga´s big boys|
|No offers for Evans yet, says West Brom boss Pardew|
|Stafylidis seals Stoke switch|
|Worry about your own team - Dortmund slam Wenger´s Aubameyang pursuit|
|Praet denies agreeing deal to join Juventus|
|No BBC for Real Madrid´s Leganes clash|
|Stoke close to Stafylidis signing|
|Brisbane Roar 3 Perth Glory 2: Holman settles five-goal thriller|
|Gourvennec leaves Bordeaux after seventh defeat in eight games|
|Pique agrees new long-term Barcelona contract|
|Wenger rules out Ozil sale as talks continue over Wilshere deal|
|Sanchez-Mkhitaryan deal close, says Wenger|
|Meunier blasts ´disgraceful´ PSG fans after Neymar boos|
|Pique demands better at Camp Nou after Espanyol ´insults´|
|Schweinsteiger re-signs with Chicago Fire for 2018|
|Juve trying everything to sign Can, says Marotta|
|Rooney convinced me to join Everton – Walcott|
|Simeone: Sevilla deserved their win|
|Conte calls for VAR improvements|
|Neymar not angered by PSG whistles - Silva|
|FA Cup Review: Wigan dump Bournemouth out, nine-man Chelsea scrape through|
|Valverde rues Barca profligacy in Espanyol defeat|
|Chelsea 1 Norwich City 1 (aet, 5-3 pens): Hazard and Caballero seal Blues progression|
|No generosity from Neymar as Cavani waits to make PSG history|
|Neymar sets Ligue 1 landmark with staggering individual display|
|Espanyol 1 Barcelona 0: Melendo ends unbeaten run|
|Paris Saint-Germain 8 Dijon 0: Neymar hits four as Cavani levels Ibrahimovic record|
|Atletico fan in ´serious condition´ after being stabbed before Sevilla game|
|Atletico Madrid 1 Sevilla 2: Montella´s men stage dramatic first-leg comeback|
|Lukaku will score 30 goals for Man Utd this season, predicts Yorke|
|Liverpool loan Grujic to Cardiff|
|Mbappe: More to come from Neymar & Cavani partnership|
|Messi the greatest ever despite no World Cup win, insists Di Maria|
|Villa determined to earn place in Spain´s World Cup squad|
|Walcott swaps Arsenal for Everton|
|You even learn from Guardiola at home - Otamendi lauds Pep impact|
|Otamendi pens Man City deal to 2022|
|Neymar leads tributes to retiring Ronaldinho|
|Ronaldo must focus on playing - Zidane sidesteps exit talk|
|Zidane still an idol for James despite ´sad´ Madrid exit|
|Stoger will stay at Dortmund if ´everything fits´|
|Bordeaux´s Malcom facing disciplinary action over social media video|
|Ronaldinho retires – The greatest Brazilians to play for Barcelona|
|Athletic reward Williams with contract until 2025|
|Jones taking unlikely inspiration from City in United´s title pursuit|
|Moyes unaware of Chelsea interest in Carroll|
|Verdi wants Bologna stay amid Napoli links|
|Ronaldinho retires – A shining light of Brazil´s 2002 World Cup-winning team|
|Ronaldinho retires – a World Cup and Ballon d´Or among Brazil great´s prizes|
|World Cup glory and Bernabeu magic - Ronaldinho´s best moments for Barca and Brazil|
|Ligue 1 Review: Balotelli at the double as Payet shines and Malcom toils|
|Pato still dreaming of World Cup selection|
|FA Cup Review: Iheanacho makes VAR history, kit confusion reigns|