Is Middlesbrough boss slowly maturing into one of the best managers in the Premier League?

Football FanCast columnist and Boro fan Luke Raine is delighted at their performances of late and feels a lot of credit must go down to Gareth Southgate who is slowing maturing into a quality England manager.


Now the dust has settled on Sunday's Premier League game at the Riverside, I feel it is appropriate to analyse just why Middlesbrough had so much success against Manchester United at The Riverside. Many fans and pundits will point to the fact that Nemanja Vidic was missing from the side, but I feel that Boro deserve more credit for their performance.

First and foremost, Gareth Southgate deserves a huge amount of praise for the way he has turned the team around after the Cardiff shambles. With games against the big three Premier League teams facing the side, it would have been easy for the team to lose their appetite and fall to three defeats.

In reality the team could, and perhaps should, have won all three of the games. At Arsenal the side defended admirably and were only broken by a late set piece. They were again undone by a set piece at Stamford Bridge and went on to hit the woodwork three times, giving Chelsea a real fright in the process.

Then we arrive at Sunday's game at The Riverside. There is no doubting that United came out of the traps the quickest and were deserved scorers of the opening goal. Even after twenty minutes, most Boro fans will have been hoping to keep the score down and retain their pride at the same time. What followed was nothing short of amazing.

Southgate showed that he is maturing into a quality young English manager, thinking on his feet by changing the formation to a usual 4-4-2, and having a real go at the champions. Record signing Afonso Alves, who looked bereft of support in the initial formation now had support in the form of the pacey Jeremie Aliadiere.

Earlier in the season, when Jonathan Woodgate left for Tottenham Hotspur, he declared he was happy because he was now playing for a "proper" manager. The way that Southgate wasn't frightened to change formation in the early stages of Sunday's game could quite easily be compared to the methods used by Woodgate's new manager, Juande Ramos.

The performance of Alves also went some way towards giving Southgate justification regarding his first major purchase in the transfer market. Given 12million pounds to spend for the first time must surely be quite a daunting experience, and although Alves only went a small way towards paying back that hefty price, he showed glimpses of the form which contributed to his goal – a – game scoring record in Holland.

Southgate now has to instil a level of consistency into his side. For the last few seasons Boro have performed at a very high standard against the Premier League's big boys. The next test for Southgate is to get the players to replicate that sort of performance week in, week out against the lesser Premier League teams so points can be accumulated at a faster rate.

Southgate surely deserves more credit from the national media. People in the press are quick to point out the lack of young English talent when it comes to managers, yet after two seasons in the job Southgate is beginning to look the part without getting a great deal of credit for the job he is doing.

For me, the way he stood up to Sir Alex Ferguson towards the end of the game proved that he is coming along well as a manger. It was only last season that Southgate was labelled "naive" by Ferguson, yet now he is giving as good as he gets. I for one will be extremely happy if Southgate continues to develop as a manager at the same rate – and maybe fans of the national team might just as happy in the future too.