AFTER pitting his wits against Louis van Gaal, Arsene Wenger, Manuel Pellegrini and Brendan Rodgers in the past 13 months, Aitor Karanka is now savouring his next high-profile managerial assignment – against a good friend to whom he remains indebted.
The Middlesbrough head coach was the epitome of calm, while all those around him of a Boro persuasion went wild in ecstatic celebration, following his side’s shock Capital One Cup penalty shoot-out win at Manchester United on Wednesday night – displaying similar reserve when the Teessiders knocked out Manchester City in the FA Cup a few miles away in January.
Boro’s reward, after glamour cup trips to Old Trafford, Highbury, Etihad Stadium and Anfield in the space of just over a year, is a televised home quarter-final tie with Everton on December 1, with sees Karanka and compatriot Roberto Martinez in opposite dug-outs.
The pair may come from different areas of Spain – Karanka is a Basque and Martinez hails from Catalonia – but both share a similar footballing philosophy and under-stated and dignified personality.
Karanka celebrates his second anniversary of an eventful tenure at the Riverside Stadium next month and the 42-year-old admits he remains thankful for a typically classy gesture from Martinez when he arrived in England.
Karanka said: “If I have been successful since I arrived here, it is because Roberto gave me a lot of advice when I came here. He’s a good friend and I am really pleased to play against him.
“He sent me a letter to say welcome and called me and we had a little good chat and and I learned a lot from that chat and we worked together two weeks ago for the Spanish Federation.”
On the draw he added: “I am really pleased because the first thing it is at home and our crowd deserve a big game at home.”