TOM Cleverley is better placed than most opposition managers to give a verdict on Middlesbrough head coach Michael Carrick.

Eight years Carrick's junior, Cleverley looked up to and learned from Boro's now boss when he came through the ranks at Manchester United - and the pair were regular midfield partners at Old Trafford.

And the man who will stand in the away dugout at the Riverside on Saturday afternoon only has good things to say about Boro's gaffer.

“When you think of Michael Carrick, you just think class – as a player, as a person, as a coach," says Cleverley, who was last month named as permanent head coach of Watford after a caretaker stint following the exit of Valerien Ismael.

“He just oozes class. When he spoke the room listened and I have massive, massive respect for him.

“He was my consistent midfield partner. I think of the 80 or so games I played for United, he was alongside me for 70 of them.

“In possession he did all the work for me – out of possession I might have shaded it!"


Cleverley respected Carrick as a player and a bloke when the pair were teammates and has been hugely impressed by the job the 42-year-old has done on Teesside.

Boro have come up short in their bid to finish in the top six this season but Cleverley doesn't think that will be the case next term.

“I really respect Middlesbrough and I think they’ll be in the mix next season with the good balance of talent and experience they have," he said.

“So I want us to lay one last marker down against a team I think will be challenging next season."

As for Watford, they head for the Riverside in mixed form, having lost only one of their last eight but won only two of 12.

After confirmation of Cleverley's full-time appointment - the 34-year-old becoming Watford's 12th permanent head coach since 2018, the Hornets beat Sunderland last time out. And although they're languishing in the bottom half, their new boss wants his side to sign off for the summer on a high this weekend.

He said: “Obviously we want to end the season with a really positive performance. We won last weekend but I didn’t think it was a great performance.

“We certainly need to improve in possession and that’ll be a big part of our pre-season project.

“We’ve been fantastic at the back, sometimes with last-ditch defending and some great saves, but we’ve kept five clean sheets in eight."