Aitor Karanka has vowed to fight until the end to keep Middlesbrough in the Premier League after seeing his FA Cup dreams dashed.
Boro’s hopes of securing a semi-final trip to Wembley were ended by Manchester City on Saturday as Pep Guardiola’s men eased to a 2-0 sixth-round victory at the Riverside Stadium.
But as Spaniard Guardiola turned his attention to Wednesday night’s Champions League showdown in Monaco, compatriot Karanka was rolling up his sleeves for the battle against relegation buoyed by what he had seen.
Despite conceding after just three minutes and losing both striker Rudy Gestede and defender Bernardo to injury, the latter departure prompting the introduction of 19-year-old Dael Fry, the Teessiders competed for long periods before eventually succumbing.
Asked if Boro could have made life more difficult for City earlier in the game, head coach Karanka said: “It’s difficult to do it for 90 minutes, especially when you have to make two substitutions which you didn’t expect, when you have to play with a kid who has an amazing future and who once again showed he can be an amazing player.
“It’s difficult, but we just have to keep believing in this group of players and we will fight until the end.”
For all Boro made a game of it, they were indebted to the excellence of American keeper Brad Guzan, who will leave the club at the end of the season to return to the MLS.
Beaten by David Silva with barely two minutes gone, Guzan made a series of fine saves to keep the visitors at bay both before and after Sergio Aguero doubled his side’s lead with 67 minutes gone, although his heroics came as no surprise to Karanka.
He said: “It’s not a surprise for me. Maybe for some, yes, but not for me it’s not a surprise. When I wanted him, it’s because I knew he was a really, really good goalkeeper.”