Steve McClaren appears to have developed a taste for the directors' box and a growing love of the much-maligned 5-4-1 system over the past few weeks.

Judging by yesterday's result and performance he won't be in any hurry to change either.

Boro have enjoyed a stop-start season but Mr Jekyll was firmly in residence in the West Midlands yesterday, consigning last weekend's Tees-Wear derby disaster to mere bitter memories.

The manager watched his side win from on high thanks to a brace from Yakubu and a George Boateng strike.

Although he would have been disappointed to see his side concede soft goals from Luke Moore and Steve Davis, McClaren would have been delighted with a hard-earned three points.

This self-imposed exile from the dug-out followed his banishment to the Xanthi directors' box on Thursday, but there was no confusion over McClaren's identity at Villa Park.

The Boro boss was treated royally in his seat in the gods, so much so he decided to spend most of the 90 minutes there.

The Teessiders had struggled to remedy their European hangovers, which have seen Boro win only once after a UEFA Cup game in the past two seasons - ironically at home to Villa last term - and McClaren opted for a tactical switch and a change of scenery in his bid for the cure.

The tactics no doubt owed much to the success, as did a woeful performance from the home side which allowed Boro to climb into the top half of the table.

McClaren has made it clear he wants to further strengthen his squad.

With Boro only returning from Greece late on Friday afternoon changes to the starting XI were expected and the manager did not disappoint.

Out went Franck Queudrue, James Morrison, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Massimo Maccarone, with Szilard Nemeth, Gaizka Mendieta, Fabio Rochemback and Yakubu coming in.

With Boro still hurting after last weekend's defeat to Sunderland, McClaren was keen to find the answer to their European malaise.

With memories of Sven Goran Eriksson's problems with formations still fresh in McClaren's mind, the Boro boss put his faith in two defensive midfielders, Doriva and Boateng protecting his back four.

The move may not have had the purists frothing at the mouth in anticipation and for 30 minutes Boro struggled to find any rhythm.

Luckily for the Teessiders Villa had none at all during that time.

Two efforts from distance straight at Thomas Sorensen for Boro, and a Wilfred Bouma volley that flew over for the home side were the sum total of shots during a dreadful start.

With the game suffering a distinct lack of atmosphere and quality, Boro fashioned on opening goal thanks to a Villa defensive howler.

Liam Ridgewell sent a headed clearance straight at Emanuel Pogatetz, whose ball into the Villa box lacked both direction and danger.

Bouma, however, decided to head it straight to the only Boro man threatening the home side's goal and Yakubu gleefully fired a left-footed effort from eight yards in off Ridgewell.

The goal galvanised both teams and the home side had two chances to level with excellent delivery from the right producing close-range headers from Juan Pablo Angel and Moore that flew just over.

Sandwiched inbetween these efforts Rochemback should have put the Teessiders two up.

The Brazilian was quickly on to a great flick header from Yakubu and had just Sorensen to beat as he tore into the box.

But the former Sunderland keeper pulled off a superb save low to his left.

The half-time talk from McClaren would no doubt have revolved around holding on to the lead for as long as possible. Five minutes into the second period, however, Villa were level.

James Milner's cross from the right found Patrick Berger, whose first-time volley was no doubt intended for the top left-hand corner of the net.

It only managed to reach Gareth Southgate, the ricochet falling straight to Moore, who curled his effort from ten yards out past Brad Jones.

When Berger forced Jones - still deputising for shoulder injury victim Mark Schwarzer - to fingertip his 20-yard effort on to the post four minutes later it surely was time for McClaren to depart his seat in the box for a more hands- on approach.

But McClaren was not to be moved and Boro showed just why a steely determination not to let the game drift away from them emerged.

Just after the hour Villa failed to clear a corner from Rochembach and Boateng crashed home a deflected effort with his left foot.

The game now opened up, allowing Rochembach to show just what he was capable of.

He spent the next half hour teasing Villa's midfield and defence and his break with five minutes left proved decisive.

He held the ball up on the right and laid a pass into the path of Boateng, who was racing into the box.

Ridgewell's challenge was fractionally late and just on the edge of the box, referee Mike Dean immediately blowing for a spot kick.

Yakubu stepped up to send Sorensen the wrong way and make the game safe.

The third goal proved crucial with Davis grabbing a late second for Villa.

At the final whistle there were boos around the ground, only this Sunday those boos weren't for the Middlesbrough players.

Result: Aston Villa 2, Middlesbrough 3.

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