Tom Cleverley's Middlesbrough prediction for next season as Watford boss talks Carrick respect

Tom Cleverley wants his Watford side to end the season on a high against Middlesbrough this weekend - but warns they face a tough task against a side he believes will be 'right in the mix next season'.

Boro are ending the season in a rich vain of form, with only one defeat in their last 11 games. After overcoming a season ravaged by injuries to emerge in a strong position, Michael Carrick has made clear his plan to strengthen the club in key areas this summer to supplement the positives this term and push for promotion next term.

Cleverley, meanwhile, has just been handed the reins at Watford permanently after losing only one of his seven games in interim charge after they sacked Valarien Ismeal, despite playing five sides from the top seven. While only one of those seven games was a win, he celebrated his full appointment with victory over Sunderland last weekend in their final game at Vicarage Road.

READ MORE: Watford will be heading to the Riverside with similar end-of-season plans as Middlesbrough

Now looking to end the season on a high, Cleverley said: “Obviously we want to end the season with a really positive performance. We won last weekend but I didn’t think it was a great performance. We certainly need to improve in possession and that’ll be a big part of our pre-season project.

“We’ve been fantastic at the back, sometimes with last-ditch defending and some great saves, but we’ve kept five clean sheets in eight. The players are in good spirits. I’ve not once had to squeeze them for enthusiasm since I’ve been in the job, and at this stage of the season that’s healthy.

“I really respect Middlesbrough and I think they’ll be in the mix next season with the good balance of talent and experience they have. So I want us to lay one last marker down against a team I think will be challenging next season."

The game will see Cleverley reunited with former Manchester United team-mate Carrick. The pair played 54 games together as the newly-appointed Hornets boss came through the ranks, with Carrick a senior head and source of support and guidance for Cleverley in that time.

Asked about meeting Carrick again on Saturday at the Riverside, he said: “He was my consistent midfield partner. I think of the 80 or so games I played for United, he was alongside me for 70 of them. When you think of Michael Carrick, you just think class – as a player, as a person, as a coach. He just oozes class. When he spoke the room listened and I have massive, massive respect for him."