Middlesbrough boss Steve McClaren believes the strength in depth of the squad now at his disposal will provide the cure to the Teessiders' European malaise.

Last season Boro won only once in games immediately following their UEFA Cup exertions, but yesterday's win at Villa Park made it four points from six already this campaign.

McClaren was able to make three changes to his starting XI and still have the likes of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Massimo Maccarone and Franck Queudrue available on the bench.

"We suffered last season after Europe, whereas this season we've had a great start in tough games at Wigan and Villa," said McClaren, who now has strength in all departments.

"We're heading in the right direction and we must build on our success. With the size of the squad we had last season I didn't think we had the opportunity to rotate - we were playing the same team for three games in a week.

"But this season we've got the numbers, changed things round and we've tried to rotate our players."

Boro were hit by an Achilles injury on Saturday to Mark Viduka, who McClaren had pencilled in for a starting spot in a lone attacking role.

The injury meant £7.5m summer signing Yakubu started up front and the former Portsmouth man repaid McClaren's faith with two goals.

"He showed today why we've put our faith in him and bought him," said a delighted McClaren.

"He was up there on his own for 90 minutes and he caused problems for their defenders for the 90 minutes.

"It bodes well for the future of this club."

McClaren was also keen to praise the work of Fabio Rochemback, who had his best game in a Boro shirt.

The Brazilian came into his own in the last half hour when a space opened up for him, and he almost topped off a great performance with an outrageous effort from the halfway line in the dying minutes that Thomas Sorensen had to quickly back-pedal to keep out.

McClaren said: "He showed what he can do and I thought him and Yakubu were excellent.

"He wanted the ball and was prepared to do things with it and I thought his performance was excellent.

"We were determined after the Sunderland game as a group to put things right after that performance.

"To qualify for the group stage of the UEFA Cup and then come to Villa Park and win bodes well for everyone. We are getting better."

McClaren's Villa counterpart David O'Leary was less than complimentary about Boro.

"They came here playing one up front and would have been happy with a draw," said the Villa boss.

"Steve McClaren can come up and give some spin but they came for a draw. They played one up front, anything after that was a bonus.

"But if you gift teams goals - and we gifted them three - you're asking for trouble."

Read more about Middlesbrough here.