Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka felt the presence of Jose Mourinho watching on gave his side luck after the Teessiders ensured they will top the Championship table at Christmas with victory at Brighton.
Boro ended the Seagulls’ remarkable club record run of 22 league matches undefeated since the end of last season with a 3-0 win in the top-of-the-table encounter at the Amex Stadium.
First-half goals from Kike and Albert Adomah put Boro on their way to their eighth win in the last 10 league games, and leading scorer Cristhian Stuani sealed the victory midway through the second half.
Karanka said he chose not to tell his players that Mourinho, sacked by Chelsea last week, was in attendance but was delighted to have the support of his close friend, the pair having worked together for three years when Karanka was his assistant at Real Madrid.
Karanka said: “Jose brought us luck. We worked together at Real Madrid and it was an amazing experience.
“Afterwards, he came into the dressing room to offer congratulations. He felt he had watched a really good team and he was impressed with us. He was the best and he will be the best.”
Karanka did not rate this as his side’s best win of the season, but praised the way they “controlled the game”. Boro are now three points above Brighton and Karanka said his side’s aim is simply to achieve promotion. He added: “We have to keep going.”
Brighton: Stockdale, Saltor, Greer, Hunemeier (Goldson 60), Calderon, van La Parra, Stephens, Kayal, Murphy (Crofts 74), Hemed (Zamora 74), Wilson. Unused substitutes: Maenpaa, Manu, Ince, Chicksen.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Nsue (Kalas 74), Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Clayton (Zuculini 84), Leadbitter, Stuani, Downing, Adomah, Garcia (Fabbrini 65). Unused substitutes: Amorebieta, De Pena, Mejias, Forshaw.
Referee: C Pawson (South Yorkshire).
Man of the match: Albert Adomah.