AITOR KARANKA does not need to motivate his team ahead of tomorrow night’s visit to Manchester United.

Middlesbrough travel to Old Trafford to face United in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup in good spirits, having rekindled their Championship title efforts with victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday.

And Karanka knows that to lead Boro out at the biggest club stadium in England will be a special occasion.

Boro yesterday brought in Manchester City midfielder Bruno Zuculini after injuries to Cristhian Stuani, Albert Adomah and Adam Forshaw left Karanka with few options in midfield, and with Grant Leadbitter and Adam Clayton on four yellow cards, the Boro boss will need to be mindful in his team selection tomorrow.

“It is difficult to think about the team for Old Trafford,” said Karanka. “I have three players with four yellow cards so we may have to change the team but I will try to put out the best 11 to try and beat them.

‘The game against Manchester United is special. The players don’t need extra motivation because to play against them is motivation enough and everyone wants to play.

“It is not difficult to prepare the players when you are playing Manchester United.

“We are going to try and beat them knowing it is not the same, with my respects to other teams we have played, it is not the same as beating Oldham or Wolves.”

Tomorrow evening is Karanka’s first match in charge of Boro against a Louis van Gaal-managed team, but the Spaniard already feels he knows the Dutchman having managed under van Gaal’s protege Jose Mourinho.

The Chelsea boss was van Gaal’s assistant while at Barcelona and, with Karanka having assisted Mourinho at Real Madrid, he feels he has indirectly learned from one of the most respected managers in Europe.

“I played against van Gaal’s team when he was in Barcelona and Jose was his assistant but we have never met for a chat and I don’t really know him,” said Karanka.

“But Jose told me all about his CV, his trophies and his career and he is a top, top manager.

“He is an interesting coach and he is particularly interesting for me because I have learned with Jose and Jose learned from van Gaal. I took the lessons from Jose so I feel I have learned from van Gaal too.

“Jose always speaks very well of van Gaal and he said that he learned a lot from him when he worked with him.

“He said he has mixed things like everybody to make himself better. Everybody has to take the good things from relationship and he considers van Gaal really positively.

“I am my own manager but as I learn I would like to think I have taken positive things from strong relationships I’ve had.”

Stewart Downing is a doubt for the game after suffering a bash to the ribs during Saturday’s 3-1 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers, but if he plays, the 31-year-old is looking forward to the occasion.

“All the pressure is on them,” said Downing. “But they’ll be used to it, it’s Manchester United, people will expect them to win. The result on Saturday for us gives us great confidence. We have nothing to lose.

“It’s a great game for us to be involved in, I’m really excited about it. I’m sure the fans and the players are the same as me. I can’t wait, if we get a win it’ll be brilliant.”

Downing is no stranger to Old Trafford having represented Boro in the Premier League along with Aston Villa, Liverpool and West Ham United, and as one of the senior players at Rockliffe it is his role to talk some of Boro’s less experienced players through what to expect tomorrow evening.

“I’ve been talking to a few of the lads like Carlos De Pena, who have never played there,” said Downing. “It’ll be a great occasion. We’re taking 10,000 fans so they’re expecting us to get something, they’re confident. We’re confident too.

“We can match them, we showed that last season when we beat City and gave Arsenal a run for their money. I think we could beat them.

We’ve got nothing to fear. It’s Manchester United but not the Manchester United of a few years ago. They’re still a dangerous team of course but we can be as well. We’ve shown we can match the big teams, we’ve got Premier League players in our team. I’m looking forward to it – I think we’ve got a hell of a chance to win.”