NATHANIEL MENDEZ-LAING has been told to enjoy the final six weeks of the season and let his future take care of itself at Middlesbrough.

The 28-year-old was only signed in January by Boro until the end of the campaign and no decisions have been made over what happens beyond that.

But Mendez-Laing’s first goal for Middlesbrough, as a late substitute in Saturday's 3-0 win over Stoke City, has reminded manager Neil Warnock of exactly what he can offer.

Warnock had the winger under him at Cardiff, recalling his double at Manchester United in May 2019 when he tormented Diogo Dalot and scored twice.

But the Bluebirds sacked him on the eve of this season because of a “disciplinary matter” which has since turned out to be a three-month ban having tested positive for cocaine.

That meant his match fitness took something of a battering before his move to Middlesbrough but Warnock thinks the signs are there that he is rediscovering his best.

“He can win games,” said Warnock. “That’s what you need at this level. We haven’t had enough goals this season and that’s why we are where we are really.

“But I thought it was a team performance to create the goal and Mendez-Laing can score at any level.

“I can show you his two goals at Old Trafford on the final day of the Premier League season when we were there and he terrorised the full-back that day.”

Despite knowing what he has to offer, though, Warnock is not making any promises about a new contract.

The Middlesbrough manager said: “There’s a long way to go yet, he knows that. I’ve only just sorted myself out!

“He knows he doesn’t have to prove anything to me. I know what he can do.

“He just has to work hard to get fit. Sometimes when he’s come on he’s tried too hard and there’s no need to do that."

By the time Mendez-Laing had raced through to chip Stoke goalkeeper Angus Gunn following a pass from Sam Morsy with two minutes remaining, Middlesbrough were already on track for a much-needed three points.

Paddy McNair’s brilliant finish five minutes before half-time when he took a touch and rolled inside the far corner followed Grant Hall’s 21st minute opener when he converted Chuba Akpom’s flick on from a corner.

Before that opener, though, Stoke had looked the better team until Warnock spotted a change was necessary so scrapped the three man defence in favour of playing McNair in midfield.

“We were getting battered,” said Warnock. “We tried to be positive, giving Neeskens Kebano a free role and Yannick, they were destroying us in midfield. We had to change it. Once we did, we knew what we were doing within a few minutes. For the last 75 minutes we dominated really.

“Paddy was excellent in there. We discussed about putting him in front of the back four but I think Jonny Howson is better than Paddy at doing that role.

“We said, ‘Let’s put him further forward, where he plays for Northern Ireland I think, and he finished with aplomb. It looks better on the telly, seeing it again. One or two thought his other went in too.”

Mendez-Laing was only introduced because Djed Spence was forced off with an injury in the final ten minutes. There does not, though, appear to be much too worry about ahead of the visit of Preston tomorrow.

Warnock said: “He just got a kick. It doesn’t seem serious. He had an ice-pack on after, but it seems okay."