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View from the terraces: Karanka leads Middlesbrough promotion fight
As Kike twists his body to curl the ball into Sheikh Mansour’s pristine net, the Middlesbrough FC supporters scream in joy at the Etihad. This year’s biggest Middlesbrough signing reels away in delight as he knows his ninety-second-minute goal has secured a 2-0 victory over the Premier League champions Manchester City. The result shocked Britain but wasn’t too surprising to Middlesbrough fans, who know they have a good team and an even better manager.
Aitor Karanka is well known in Spain as an ex-player who experienced the highs and lows of playing in the La Liga for sixteen years. Yet in England, virtually unknown one year ago he came to help Middlesbrough halt their poor run of form. Now Karanka and Middlesbrough are a force to be reckoned with in the English Championship and are launching an assault on the big time of the Premiership.
After an action packed eleven-year stay in England’s first division, which included a Carling Cup victory and a UEFA Cup, runners-up position in 2006, Middlesbrough couldn’t stave off the drop any longer and in 2009 they were relegated to the Championship. Middlesbrough was like a young boy: eleven action-packed years and before becoming a teenager dazed and bored, not even in the fight for the playoffs. It has almost become a tradition for to have an amazing start to the season and then finish poorly over recent years.
Then Aitor Karanka came in at the end of 2013 to help. He had a shaky start but began to get into the flow around March and ended the season in twelfth. This year, Middlesbrough probably have the most depth in the Championship, as they virtually have two good players for every position, largely down to Karanka’s spending. Without a doubt, Middlesbrough has had the best defence in the Championship so far this season, with Daniel Ayala showing surprising leadership at the back at the young age of twenty-seven.
It is popular belief that Karanka’s way of playing was mostly inspired by Jose Mourinho, as Karanka was Mourinho’s assistant for two years at Real Madrid. Karanka’s playing style consists of different types of moves from set-pieces, high tempo, and a 4-4-1-1 formation. It is believed that Mourinho and Karanka talk on the phone every week though Karanka is not quite the outspoken man to stir up trouble with the press.
Many people believe that Middlesbrough will not be able to keep their winning form up, but ever since Middlesbrough were relegated Boro fans have been even more optimistic as the squad’s depth is so large. They have conceded the least goals in the Championship and are also pushing for most goals. Middlesbrough is only one point off the top of the table, and my prediction of a second place finish is entirely realistic, considering their great winning streak (also without a loss in eight matches); I think they can keep it up. To all those Arsenal fans out there, tread warily if you think you’re going to get an easy game against the Boro in the next round of the FA Cup. Middlesbrough have upset the big boys before.
Photo credit: Chemical Engineer on Wikipedia Commons