FEATURE | Meet Michael Carrick’s Middlesbrough side who are ripping up the Championship

As a Premier League fan, the name Michael Carrick will forever be a standout name, with the midfielder playing over 480 league games for Manchester United, Tottenham and West Ham.

Carrick (with United) won five league titles, three domestic cups, a Champions League, a Europa League and a Club World Cup.

As a player, Carrick used his tremendous footballing IQ to be one step ahead of the opposition at every turn, that’s why Sir Alex Ferguson loved him.

However, this article is not about his accomplishments on the pitch but rather his fledgling managerial career on the touchline.

Carrick began his coaching journey at United under Jose Mourinho, before later joining Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s staff following the sacking of the ‘special one’.

The former England international later became the caretaker manager after Solskjaer left, winning two and drawing one in his three games in charge.

Carrick left after Ralf Rangnick’s appointment as he wanted to become a manager himself.

In October 2022 he got his chance as Middlesbrough hired the promising English coach.

Carrick took over a Middlesbrough side who sat 21st in the league but remarkably just 14 games later, the North Yorkshire club find themselves in third, and true front runners for the playoffs.

The 41-year-old wasted no time implementing his philosophy at the Riverside, with his Middlesbrough playing quality possession based football, often racking up a possession percentage of over 60.

He has set up with a range of formations, however most recently a 4-2-3-1 set up has excelled, with one full back usually in possession staying back to form a back three.

Confident ball playing keeper Zack Steffen formerly of Manchester City has been a revelation too, allowing them to build confidently from the back.

Carrick’s wingers remain wide in order to spread the oppositions defensive line as thin as possible, allowing pockets of space to be created between defenders. Reminiscent of a proper ‘Tiki-Taka’ side.

Often focusing so much on one side of the pitch, it completely frees up the opposite flank for Ryan Giles to get into assisting and goal scoring positions.

Chuba Akpom has been a revelation up front, having a season like he has never had before with 16 league goals, testament to the system Carrick has implemented as he previously had only managed less than half that.

The Middlesbrough shape is often like that of Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, with a front five at times.

In Middlesbrough’s game against Blackpool we saw Carrick’s tactical identity at its dominating best, boasting 75% possession, over 550 passes completed and six shots on target, compared to Blackpool’s one.

It is through looking at these stats it becomes apparent that Carrick’s tactics are not by chance, and in fact are methodically planned to make the opposition suffer.

Carrick has been a revelation so far in his managerial career and should it continue, he could go on to be very successful. Possibly even the most successful English manager to come out of his generation.

Jonathan Maze | Get Football

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