What Tom Cleverley liked about Middlesbrough as he again talks up next season's credentials

Watford manager Tom Cleveley
Watford manager Tom Cleveley -Credit:MI News/NurPhoto

Tom Cleverley saw a lot to like about Middlesbrough after their 3-1 victory over his Watford side on Saturday, as he once again tipped them to be contenders next season.

Cleverley watched on as his side suffered just a second defeat from his nine games in charge, with Emmanuel Latte Lath, Alex Bangura and Isaiah Jones scoring the goals for Michael Carrick's team. Cleverley had labelled Boro contenders for next season ahead of the game, and was no less convinced after the defeat for his side at the Riverside.

He said: "You can never predict this league, who would have said Ipswich would be in the conversation? There could be surprise packages, a new top coach could be unearthed... It's the most difficult league in the world to be successful in.

READ MORE: Middlesbrough player ratings vs Watford with positive marks all round and three 8s in total

"Consistency is the key to doing it. When I got promoted as a player, we weren't the best team in the league but we were probably the most consistent. I think it's very naive of me to say it could be easier [next season]. This year has been strong, preparing for games this year has had my head spinning at times!

"But Boro are a really promising side. They have some good young players, but the balance with experienced Championship players is key. Players like [Luke] Ayling, [Matt] Clarke. I really, really like the centre-forward [Latte Lath]. They have good tools."

In Cleverley's eyes though, Boro have no greater asset than their head coach Carrick. It's someone Cleverley knows so well from their time together at Manchester United, and with that in mind, it's been absolutely no shock for him to see Carrick's success on Teesside.

"He's a classy guy, class player, class coach," the Hornets boss said. "He's got a calmness. He doesn't act on emotion, he acts on pure process and strategy. He was a fantastic ball player in possession and you can see that in his team, the rotations, they all know they have to try and get on the ball.

"But his temperament, he was one of those guys in the dressing room that didn't speak much but when he spoke the room fell silent and I'm sure he'll carry the same weight now."

As for the game itself, he reflected: “I’ve no complaints with the result. I thought they just showed more personality with the ball than us. They stayed calm and played around us which made it difficult. I’ve told the lads that’s something for me to address because I feel we are nowhere near unlocking the potential of this team in possession.”