MICHAEL Carrick insists Fulham loanee Rodrigo Muniz remains part of his plans at Middlesbrough, despite the fact he hasn't kicked a ball since mid-December.

Muniz is well down the pecking order on Teesside, with 17-year-old forward Sonny Finch preferred on the bench in recent weeks, but Carrick says the Brazilian striker can still play a part in the run-in.

Cameron Archer has established himself as Boro's first choice striker since his January arrival from Aston Villa, with Matt Crooks, when fit, also used a centre-forward by Carrick. And the head coach also has the option of moving Marcus Forss into a central role, despite the fact the Finland international has played most of his football for Boro down the right flank.


Muniz started Carrick's first game in charge against Preston but has made just four appearances since - all from the bench - and hasn't been included in a matchday squad since the win at Birmingham in early January, though he did have a spell out injured.

Boro held talks with Fulham over cutting short Muniz’s loan spell in January but the Premier League club were unable to line-up another switch for the striker, so he remained on Teesside. And although he hasn't featured since the window, Carrick says Muniz might still be needed between now and the end of the season.

"He's a big part of the group," said the head coach.

"He's training every day. He had a setback for a few weeks but he's getting fitter and sharper so yeah, for sure (he can still play a part). That's what I say about the squad. You can be out of the squad and feel like you're not close but at some point you've got to play a part and it could be the biggest of parts. You just don't know.

"I have to say again, the group has been terrific, Rodrigo included, in terms of training and being positive and supporting the boys that are playing and waiting for that chance."

Asked what Muniz needs to do to force his way back into the squad, Carrick said: "It's not as easy as saying what a certain player, this is not Rodrigo, I'm talking in general, needs to do.

"The lads that have the shirt are playing well and have been in the team, so timing of who's available, who's fit, who's playing well, do we need to tweak things?

"It's just a responsibility of every player to keep training, keep being ready and sharp for that moment when it comes."