Manchester Utd v Middlesbrough: Aitor Karanka ready for the ultimate tactical battle

Middlesbrough's head coach Aitor Karanka locks horns for the first time with his mentor, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho (Picture: PA).
Middlesbrough's head coach Aitor Karanka locks horns for the first time with his mentor, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho (Picture: PA).
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AITOR KARANKA is not one of those managers who is overly prone to sentiment, but the symbolism of today’s apprentice-versus-master meeting with Jose Mourinho is certainly not lost upon him.

Middlesbrough’s head coach pits his wits against his good friend whom he assisted during his time at Real Madrid for the first time today, with the Spaniard, no doubt, seeking to show his Iberian counterpart that he learned plenty under his tutelage at the Bernebeu Stadium.

Having frustrated Mourinho’s feted counterparts Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger already this season, Karanka faces another grandee of the game in perhaps the ultimate battle of tactical acumen against Mourinho, someone who previously had his nose bloodied at the hands of Boro during his time at Chelsea.

Whatever transpires this afternoon, the respect and goodwill will endure at the final whistle, and given that Karanka worked so closely with Mourinho, it is perhaps no surprise either that the Boro coach sees similarities in the way the respective sides will set themselves up this afternoon.

Karanka said: “You want your team organised. The better players you have the better you can play. When I analyse Man United, when they don’t have the ball, it is easy to compare with us.

“In terms of tactics we are similar to them, they play with the same shape, they are confident with the transitions.

“They have a reference player up front like (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic, albeit with different quality.”

Even accounting for the personal signficance of today’s encounter, Karanka’s pressing concern is more survival gains for Boro, whose sole top-flight win on their travels this season arrived at Sunderland on August 21.

While Boro’s progress has been up and down, Boro’s boss is confident about the future.

Karanka, who master-minded a famous Capital One Cup success for Boro at Old Trafford last season when the hosts were under the command of Louis van Gaal, said: “We are in a really good position. We knew we would be fighting relegation positions.

“If we added points that we deserved, we would be in a better position. But I am really looking forward to the future.”

Manchester United have reported yearly revenues of over £250m in the annual accounts. The club had revenues of £253.9m up until the end of June, 2016, up from £201.7m in 2015, while pre-tax profits were up to £141.1m from £81.7m.