MANCHESTER has served Middlesbrough pretty well during Aitor Karanka’s time in charge.
But it is fair to say that this afternoon’s test against a Manchester City side riding the crest of a wave after their statement-making watershed victory over Barcelona in midweek is on another stratosphere to previous challenges.
Boro head coach Karanka outwitted former City chief Manuel Pellegrini en route to a shock FA Cup fourth-round 2-0 triumph in January 2015.
Just for good measure, he knocked out Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United out of the Capital One Cup on penalties in another cup upset seven months later.
The victory at the Etihad represented a particular stunner with those City players still present at the club no doubt eyeing a spot of payback today.
Along with multitudes of Blues fans, with the more seasoned members of their supporting contingent no doubt mindful of how Boro pipped them to Uefa Cup qualification on the final day of the 2004-05 season – with the Teessiders having inflicted several other damaging victories against City over the years.
Not that Karanka, ever the pragmatist, is reading too much into history. It is probably just as well as he pits his wits against his decorated compatriot Pep Guardiola.
Karanka said: “It’s a nice game for us because both managers are from Spain.
“I said that with Pep here the league was going to improve, and he’s showing how good he is.
“He’s one of the best coaches, especially after the win over Barcelona, he is changing. When you are watching Man City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, as a football man you like to always watch good games.
“Sometimes when you play against teams who you are not used to watching on TV it can surprise you, but watching Man City was no surprise as they have amazing players.
“Now we have to play against them but we must focus on ourselves.”