THINK back to the best wins of Michael Carrick's Middlesbrough tenure and what comes to mind is breathless attacking football, emphatic scorelines and dominant displays.

There were so many threes, fours and fives when Boro charged through the second half of last season and swatted teams aside with such ease. And even this season, when Carrick's side have had to grind out wins rather than blow teams away, they've done so by imposing themselves on the opposition, dictating the game and wearing sides down.

Saturday, though, was different. And for all the stand-out moment was clearly Sam Greenwood's outstanding late winner - more on the goalscorer later - equally as memorable was the sight of Dael Fry following Kelechi Iheanacho and Jonny Howson treading on Kiernan Dewsbury Hall's toes all afternoon. In a season that may well pair Middlesbrough and Liverpool in a League Cup semi-final, this was a throwback to Steve Baker on Steve McManaman.

Greenwood's winner was a moment of individual brilliance but Boro's success over leaders Leicester City was all about the collective. It was Greenwood and Isaiah Jones grafting all afternoon without the ball and protecting superb full-backs Rav van den Berg and Lukas Engel, it was Hayden Hackney crunching into challenges rather than being allowed to set the tempo in possession, it was Josh Coburn's tireless efforts in occupying the league's best defence. He got Jannik Vestergaard booked after just 12 minutes.

And it was the sheer brilliance of Howson, Fry and Paddy McNair in containing Leicester's attacking talent. By the time Jamie Vardy was introduced late on, it was too late for Leicester. Boro's party was in full swing.

Carrick didn't rank this win against his many others but it was absolutely clear with the pride and delight with which he spoke afterwards that this was right up there with his best Boro victories.

And that was because of the manner in which his players so impressively executed the gameplan that had been drilled into them on the training pitches at Rockliffe in the days building up to the visit of the league leaders.

For Carrick, one word summed up Boro's efforts.

“Sacrifice is a great word for today," he said.

"I think everyone had to sacrifice something to work for each other. I’ve said so many times about the spirit in the group and how they back each other as a team. You don’t win games in that manner if you don’t have that. We’ve got to use that more often.

"The boys stepped up to that challenge. It’s a big win, of course it is, and it will hopefully give everyone a huge boost going into the small break. But then it’s always about what’s next after that. But certainly, we can enjoy it, definitely in what we did out-of-possession. I said before the game, we’ve been improving that side of us as we’ve been going, and I thought we really showed that."


Boro go into the break on the back of just one defeat in their last 12 games in all competitions. That loss - to Stoke - was followed by progress in the Carabao Cup, a performance that deserved victory at Plymouth and this felling of Leicester.

And in the chunk of games between the October and November international breaks, a Boro talisman has emerged. Greenwood took his tally to four goals in six games with his stunning strike on Saturday. He's a matchwinner and while Boro still have key attacking duo Riley McGree and Marcus Forss to welcome back from injury, Greenwood is on the right track to making himself an undroppable.

Leicester had their moments before his goal on Saturday. Seny Dieng made a stunning first half save to deny Vestergaard and made up for an error with another fine stop to deny Iheanacho after the break. The striker then hit the post as Leicester turned the screw. But Boro hung on in there and despite moans at Oliver Langford's failure to play an advantage when the home side attacked with men over, the decision to pull back play for the free-kick gave Greenwood chance to take aim and he found the top corner.