Downing at heart of Karanka Middlesbrough sacking

Aitor Karanka's former No. 2 takes charge of Boro for the first time on Sunday against Manchester United at the Riverside following the Spaniard's departure yesterday.

Karanka left his head coach role on Teesside on Thursday with his side second-bottom of the Premier League with 10 games to go, with a club statement insisting the decision was mutual.

Agnew is the front-runner to be given the job, according to the Gazette, after being backed by Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson.

He had a short stint in charge of the Jordan national team last year and was also made Derby's football advisor for Darren Wassall's spell as interim manager from February to May last year.

Karanka said: "I'd like to thank Middlesbrough for a wonderful opportunity and the players, staff and all the people at the club who I have worked with".

Gibson also paid tribute to Karanka, who guided the club back into the top flight at the end of last season.

"I know we'll take that fighting spirit for the rest of the season".

The win for Manchester United moves them up to fifth in the Premier League heading into the worldwide break.

"I would never say a bad word against Aitor but I do believe we will stay in the Premier League and I am capable of delivering it". "I don't think it's amusing that some of our players have played 11 matches in six weeks". I hope he's here this time next year or the year after.

"We're better because of him, I hope he's better because of us, and we'll stay friends, our family will stay friends, we'll meet and have a beer and some dinner".

Speaking before the game, Gibson had hinted Agnew could be Karanka's long-term successor as manager.

Explaining the rationale behind that choice, he said: "Joe's a great football guy and I've known Joe a long time". Then we had a very busy summer. "He has progressed us and he will have learnt an enormous amount from this experience", Gibson added.

  • Loretta Pittman