Middlesbrough vs. Man U
Venue: Riverside Stadium
Kick off: 1PM
Managerless Middlesbrough will begin the post-Aitor Karanka era on Sunday (today) when they take on top-four hopefuls, Manchester United, at the Riverside Stadium.
Steve Agnew will be in the dugout for the hosts as they look to give their survival hopes a boost, while Jose Mourinho’s side could close the gap on the Champions League places to three points for a few hours at least.
It was Karanka’s time working alongside Mourinho at Real Madrid that made him an attractive candidate for the Middlesbrough job three-and-a-half years ago, so being denied the opportunity to come up against his old friend for one final time in the role may add insult to injury for the Spaniard.
As Championship runners-up last season, Karanka’s time in charge at the Riverside Stadium will be fondly remembered by many fans, despite numerous reports of fallouts with everyone from the players to the owners to the supporters themselves throughout his spell at the helm.
In the short term, though, a draw may be the best Boro will be hoping for today and, considering these two sides have drawn more games than any other teams in the division this season, it is a realistic goal for the hosts too.
Boro have only lost one of their last five home games and held a free-scoring Everton side to a goalless draw at the Riverside last month, although only two teams have a worse record in front of their own fans this term.
With only 11 matches of the season left, every game is of vital importance for Middlesbrough now, but the players will know that an upcoming triple-header against Swansea City, Hull City and Burnley is likely to have a much bigger impact on their survival hopes than this game against United.
United also share the league’s best defensive record away from home against a Middlesbrough side who have scored fewer than anyone else in front of their own fans, and only Man City and Chelsea have amassed more points on the road than the Red Devils while only two have amassed fewer at home than Boro.
Middlesbrough Possible XI: Valdes, Barragan, Bernardo, Gibson, Fabio, Leadbitter, De Roon, Clayton, Ramirez, Negredo, Traore.
Man U Possible XI: De Gea, Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Rojo, Carrick, Fellaini, Lingard, Mata, Mkhitaryan, Rashford.