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Downing at heart of Karanka Middlesbrough sacking

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Aitor Karanka parted company with Middlesbrough on Thursday who sit 19th in the league

Speaking ahead of Sunday's visit of Manchester United, Gibson told the club's official website, www.mfc.co.uk: "Steve will have full autonomy as first-team coach".

The forthcoming worldwide break will give Gibson time to assess the alternatives, but it seems likely that whoever does get the job - Nigel Pearson, Steve McClaren and Alan Pardew feature in the bookmakers' early list of candidates - will have to work within the head-coach model.

Gibson, who has special advisor Peter Kenyon's contacts to draw upon, has turned to experience in the past, drafting in former England boss Terry Venables to work alongside Bryan Robson in December 2000, although the circumstances this time around are very different. He sacrificed himself. He's in a good frame of mind.

I have to be honest, it was a really hard day yesterday, a very emotional day, but then today the players have trained well and we look forward to the weekend. He has been enormous for our club. "He has progressed us and he will have learnt an enormous amount from this experience", Gibson added. "I really think that".

Steve Agnew insists that Stewart Downing still has a key role to play in Middlesbrough's top-flight survival bid as he prepares to take the caretaker reins for the first time against Manchester United on Sunday (19 March). I know we'll take that same fighting spirit for the rest of the season'. We wish him all the very best. "There's more to him than people know and a bit more steel", he said. Steve could be a surprise No.1.

Agnew had drafted in the vastly experienced Joe Jordan, who worked with Harry Redknapp for many years, as his assistant and believes the Scot's enthusiasm will rub off on his players.

Middlesbrough also confirmed goalkeeping coach Marcos Abad, analysts Juanjo Vila and Guillermo Salinas had all now left the club "as part of a backroom re-shuffle".

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