ON Thursday, Middlesbrough finally did what almost every club does when threatened with relegation from the Premier League.
They sacked their manager.
Chairman Steve Gibson is more patient than most, but even he had to bite the bullet when his team slid into the bottom three after 10 games without a win and a record that has seen them fail to score in nine of their last 13 League games.
Gibson had seen virtually all his relegation rivals change their boss and, as a result, reel Boro in and overtake them.
Hull City, Crystal Palace, Swansea and Leicester City have all improved – some more quickly than others – to give themselves a fighting chance of survival.
Sunderland have kept faith with David Moyes – and they’re even worse off than Boro.
Ironically, the Black Cats have concocted four consecutive miraculous escapes, but each one necessitated a managerial change.
But it wasn’t just results that brought about Aitor Karanka’s departure. The Spaniard has spent much of the season picking fights with those around him.
He had a go at the fans for not being vocal enough, he criticised the Board for not getting him the players he wanted and last week he had a bust-up with Boro’s favourite son – and the man Gibson broke the bank to bring back to The Riverside – Stewart Downing.
Karanka only needed to fall out with a female doctor and he really would be following Jose Mourinho’s playbook to the letter!
So many aspects of the lead-up to last week’s events mirrored what happened last season at Chelsea.
Karanka has said that he learned everything he knows from The Special One, to whom he was assistant at Real Madrid.
He even has the same enemies, spending time prior to his final game to point out that Pep Guardiola was not the best coach in the world because he wasn’t even the best coach in Manchester.
In the end, he made his own position untenable, just as Mourinho did at Chelsea. He voluntarily loaded the bullets and begged the club to pull the trigger.
The problem for Middlesbrough is that it’s happened so late in the season.
Steve Agnew takes caretaker charge for Manchester United’s visit today. But even if Boro appoint a permanent manager during the international break, the new man will have just 10 games to save them.
It may not be enough.