IT might have been a challenging moment at the time, but when Michael Carrick reflects on Lukas Engel’s experience at Hillsborough in September, he sees a night that could prove the making of the Danish defender.

Engel’s first-half struggles against Sheffield Wednesday, which saw him repeatedly beaten by Owls full-back Pol Valentin, resulted in him being substituted at half-time as Carrick sought to stem the flow of attacks down Boro’s left-hand side.

At the time, it felt like the incident could prove a defining moment in the 24-year-old’s career, with Engel appearing to have struggled to adapt to life in English football’s second tier. When he was left out of the side in the next two matches, there were even questions about whether his Boro career was over before it had begun.

Fast forward a couple of months, however, and things are looking very different. Not only is Engel back in the Boro side, he is looking perfectly at home in the Championship, with his performances prior to the international break playing a major role in the Teessiders’ rise up the table.

Carrick might have been one of the best midfielders in the country for more than a decade, but he readily admits he had plenty of ups and downs during his playing days. So, while he had sympathy for Engel’s struggles at Hillsborough, he knew they were never going to define his Boro experience.

“I’ve had loads of nights like that (Hillsborough),” said Carrick. “When I look back at moments in my career and life, then it’s the ones that were challenging a bit that stand out. They weren’t necessarily pleasant at the time, and you didn’t really enjoy going through them, but looking back now, they kind of make you.

“They make you or break you, it depends how you come out of it, but certainly if you come out of it the right way, then you come out stronger and you’re much better for it. I’ve found that through my career, and I think there’s an understanding that one game, two games or three games doesn’t make or break a player’s career.

“There’s certainly an understanding of that from me. We’re there to support a player and believe in him. They’re here for a reason, so it’s not about making a judgement over a week or two. It’s a period of time, and that goes for all the players. It’s great to see them develop and see that they have that trust in us because we’ve got that belief in them.”


With Ryan Giles’ loan having expired at the end of last season, Boro spent most of the summer knowing they needed to recruit a left-back.

Engel was always one of the most prominent names on their wanted list, with the Teessiders’ recruitment team eventually agreeing a permanent deal for the Dane, who spent last season with Silkeborg.

The world of recruitment has changed markedly in recent years, with an entire industry having developed around due diligence and player assessment, so while Engel might not have hit the ground running at the start of the season, there was never a sense of panic over his ability to adapt.

“I’ve been hugely impressed with Lukas, but I wouldn’t say I’m surprised because knowing him as a player and a person, you can see his drive and determination,” said Carrick. “You could see that from the start.

“Sometimes, that little setback or challenge makes you in the end. I’m delighted with the way he’s playing, it’s great to see. It’s what we knew he was capable of, and there’s still loads more to come.”