LONDON • Jose Mourinho claims that he knows the identities of the players whom he feels were responsible for his friend Aitor Karanka losing his job as Middlesbrough manager.
The Manchester United manager travels to the Riverside Stadium today with an extra incentive to win the Premier League match after the sacking of Karanka, his assistant for three years at Real Madrid.
Mourinho wants to boost United's Champions League qualification hopes with a victory, but he will also want to defeat Middlesbrough for his old friend.
It is understood that Karanka had clashed with a number of Boro players, including Stewart Downing and Patrick Bamford.
Mourinho would not name names, but it is clear that he feels that the players pushed Karanka out of the club.
In the third year he had direct promotion, so I think in the fourth year he deserved to be sacked.
JOSE MOURINHO, adopting a sarcastic tone to mock the decision behind Middlesbrough's sacking of Aitor Karanka, his former assistant at Real Madrid, after a four-year spell in which they were promoted from The Championship.
"In this case, I know the names," Mourinho said.
The United manager used a sarcastic tone to express his consternation at Karanka's departure after three and a half years.
"I think he deserves to be sacked," Mourinho said. "In the first year he arrived, the team were going into League One and he saved the team. In the second year he took the team to Wembley to play the play-off final.
"In the third year he had direct promotion, so I think in the fourth year he deserved to be sacked."
In another twist, Steve Agnew, who was Karanka's assistant but takes charge of his first match today as acting manager, will recall Downing to the Boro squad.
Agnew said: "Stewart is a Middlesbrough boy and loves the club. He's back in and will be a big part of the group for the rest of the season."
Mourinho will take a depleted squad to Teesside, having lost Paul Pogba to a hamstring injury in Thursday's Europa League win over Rostov.
The United manager will have to rejig his midfield as he bids for a place in next season's Champions League. Before this weekend's round of matches, they were sixth in the table, six points behind fourth-placed Liverpool.
Against Middlesbrough, United will also be without top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic and midfielder Ander Herrera, both suspended, and may also be missing defender Daley Blind, who suffered a head injury against Rostov.
United captain Wayne Rooney, left out of the England squad for the forthcoming matches against Germany and Lithuania, has declared himself fit after a recent knee injury, and may be recalled.
Mourinho will make a late call on Anthony Martial, who has missed the past two games through injury.
Agnew, 51, insists he can fill the void left by the sacking of Karanka as Middlesbrough look to end a three-month stretch without a league victory.
He will be given an opportunity to prove himself until the end of the season, and has brought experienced former Scotland international Joe Jordan in as his No. 2.
"It's something I've always wanted to do," Agnew said. "I have had opportunities in the past but it didn't feel quite right. It's a massive opportunity and it's one I'm really looking forward to."
THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
MIDDLESBROUGH V MAN UNITED
Singtel TV Ch103, StarHub Ch228, 8.25pm.