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EFL: Michael Carrick gets chance to shine at Middlesbrough

Michael Carrick, the former Manchester United and England midfielder, has been appointed head coach of Championship strugglers Middlesbrough.

Carrick replaces caretaker Leo Percovich, whose five-match reign ended with a drab 0-0 draw at home to Huddersfield on Saturday, leaving Boro just one point and one place outside the Championship bottom three and 10/1 to be relegated.

The Teesside club had been without a full-time boss since Chris Wilder was axed on October 5. Carrick's first match in charge will be Saturday's trip to Preston, for which Middlesbrough are a 7/4 chance.

Only way is up for Boro and Carrick?

WhatChampionship
WhereEngland
WhenAugust 2022 - May 2023
How to watchN/A
OddsTo win the Championship title - Burnley 9/4, Sheff Utd 9/2, Norwich 5/1, QPR 10/1, Watford 12/1, Blackburn 16/1, Middlesbrough 50/1

"We see Michael as the perfect fit", said Middlesbrough's Steve Gibson and you can understand the club owner's enthusiasm for his new 41-year-old first-team boss.

North-east boy and former Boro youngster Carrick goes back home to save a club in crisis – it's a story that's made for a happy ending.

"Middlesbrough was the first professional club I played for as a nine-year-old boy, so it's a very special feeling to be back here as a head coach," said the ex-Manchester United ace, who will work alongside a true Teesside hero, Jonathan Woodgate.

"Growing up in the north-east myself I'm fully aware of what football means to people."

What it means to Boro fans is getting them playing good football again, leaving the relegation places far behind and starting to put together a run that gets them near the play-offs. As it stands, Boro are nine points off sixth place and 10/1 to be promoted.

Carrick's shining CV deserves respect

Carrick's pedigree is beyond dispute. As a player he won five Premier League titles with Manchester United and countless cups, including the 2007/08 Champions League in which he successfully converted his penalty in the shootout triumph over Chelsea.

He won 34 England caps and was clearly marked out by managers he'd worked for as a future top coach, Louis van Gaal hailing Carrick as his "trainer coach during a game" during the Dutchman's tenure at Old Trafford.

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He worked at United as a coach for Jose Mourinho, then Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and in three matches as a caretaker, post-Solskjaer, oversaw a win at Villarreal in the Champions League, another win over Arsenal and a draw with Chelsea.

United's owners were reportedly happy to give their former midfielder a decent run only to row back on that idea when Ralf Rangnick became available.

Management minefield a reminder of pressure

Carrick knows the size of the task and the level of ambition at a club who were gracing the Premier League as recently as 2016/17.

Boro didn't spend silly money last summer - far from it - but the belief was, having finished seventh last term, there was a platform there to build on.

Wilder couldn't and paid the price and Carrick will be acutely aware of the expectations and price of failure. And being a big name with international experience doesn't count for an awful lot if results don't go his way.

Already this season nine Championship clubs have changed manager, victims including Wilder at the Riverside and Steve Bruce at West Brom.

Up a level in the Premier League five managers have been fired already, two of whom - Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard - Carrick will have played alongside and against.

What Carrick needs to fix

Issues at the Riverside don't look impossible to resolve for Carrick and Woodgate. They are 21st in the table with a minus two goal difference; Reading in eighth boast a minus four goal difference.

There has been a lack of consistency. They were superb and full of passion when beating Sunderland 1-0 but a few days later stank the place out gong three down at half-time to Cardiff. They were excellent when winning 4-1 at Wigan – but next up was Saturday's bore draw with Huddersfield.

Defensively they look strong. The Dael Fry-Darragh Lenihan double act should be more than good enough to provide a solid backbone in front of US World Cup keeper Zak Steffen.

The goals, though, haven’t come from the likes of Rodrigo Muniz, Marcus Forss and, to some extent, Chuba Akpom, though it's a chronic and crippling lack of midfield creativity that is proving their undoing.

And if there's any man who can fix that, it's got to be a former Manchester United and England midfielder.

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