How Aitor Karanka's Middlesbrough FC rebuild can provide inspiration to Michael Carrick

IF MICHAEL CARRICK is half as successful as the two previous Middlesbrough managers with strong associations with Manchester United, then no-one will be complaining on Teesside.

Those two individuals in question being Bryan Robson and Steve McClaren, of course.

Robson's arrival took the club into a different stratosphere - and not just in terms of pure geography after the switch from Ayresome Park to the Riverside Stadium.

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Boro became box-office. A stellar cast of names arrived amid famous days and nights as Boro became one of the most happening and talked about clubs in the country in the mid to late noughties.

Michael Carrick. Picture: Getty Images.Michael Carrick. Picture: Getty Images.
Michael Carrick. Picture: Getty Images.

McClaren then provided a modern forward-thinking twist to help Boro win their first major domestic trophy and reach the Uefa Cup following an unforgettable run which seems a world away these days.

The initial aims of Carrick - who is finalising his move to Teesside with caretaker Leo Percovich set to again be in charge against fellow strugglers Huddersfield Town on Saturday, will be rather more prosaic.

Consolidation in the Championship, something the club craved in the dark days of the mid-Eighties, would be the first reference point after a ropey opening to 2022-23.

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In terms of the scenario that greets the 41-year-old, it is similar to Boro's position nine years ago.

Back in October 2013, the Riverside waters were choppy, with Tony Mowbray paying the price for a rough start - three wins in the club's first 12 Championship matches of 2013-14.

A top-six challenge had been viewed a minimum requirement, again not dissimilar to now. Boro were in 16th place, closer to the relegation zone than the top six and with just four points to spare on the bottom three.

Carrick will inherit a side in an even more parlous predicament, notwithstanding Wednesday’s emphatic victory at Wigan.

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Mowbray's replacement, Aitor Karanka, quickly got focused. It was not pretty for much of the remainder of 2013-14. It was grim at times - a run of seven games without a Boro goal occurred in late winter for instance, albeit with just four goals conceded at the other end.

Ultimately, the Spaniard made Boro far more organised and harder to beat and built firm foundations and the players got fully used to his style of play through endless repetition and drills. A harvest was reaped in the next two seasons.

The Boro pragmatists might just take some of that now.

Karanka's expertise as a international class defender in his playing days was quickly imparted onto his Boro charges. His attention to detail was painstaking.

Like Karanka, Carrick must make Boro more solid and safe.

His own specific sphere of influence as a class midfield operator for the likes of United and Spurs will also hopefully have spin-offs in an area which has malfunctioned above all others this term.

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The sale of Marcus Tavernier to Bournemouth was the most significant development of the summer at Boro. His energy and drive has been missed badly in the engine room.

Without him, Boro lack 'legs' and need a reset. Alex Mowatt has lost his mojo, Matt Crooks hasn’t reached the heights of 21-22 and Jonny Howson has suffered. Riley McGree's form has been sporadic and Massimo Luongo is yet to feature.

As a result, a rookie in Hayden Hackney has been blooded. To be fair, he has not looked out of place. He hit his first goal on Wednesday.

Carrick has much to do. Getting a regular tune out of midfield is an immediate and pressing priority.