Old Trafford icon Wayne Rooney will face his “great friend” Michael Carrick as his tenure of Birmingham City begins with a trip to Teesside.
The pair – who won an FA Cup as captain and vice-captain of Manchester United – will be putting their friendship to one side as they seek to gain three points in the Championship table at the expense of the other.
Rooney said: “Michael’s a great friend of mine, to come up against him will feel a bit strange but we’re both professional and come that 90 minutes we both want to beat each other.
“I’m sure it’ll make for a good game and of course we’ll be shaking hands and having a chat after the game.”
Carrick also commented on facing his former teammate, as Middlesbrough look to build on their 4-0 demolition of local rivals Sunderland before the international break.
He said: “It’s funny how things work out in football and being the first one.
“We’ll enjoy the game, we’ll obviously stay friends after it whatever the result is, but it might be a little bit strange standing next to him on the touchline.”
Carrick will see some more familiar faces tomorrow (kick-off 3pm).
His former England teammate Ashley Cole and former Manchester United defender John O’Shea have also formed part of the Birmingham City management team.
Rooney said: “They’re all really good coaches in their own right and in their own ways. They’re all coaches I trust and believe in and they understand the way I want to play.”
Straight down to business for First Team coach Ashley Cole! 😤 pic.twitter.com/iDktLZ58KY— Birmingham City FC (@BCFC) October 20, 2023
Their task will be to maintain Birmingham City’s strong start to the season. The Blues are in the play-off places in sixth, having picked up 18 points from 11 games.
Rooney’s week has not been entirely about the football, however.
The Sun has reported that the former England top goal scorer is earning £1.5million a year – triple the salary of his predecessor John Eustace.
Manchester United’s record goal scorer – who has also been in the limelight for his appearance on Coleen Rooney: The Real Wagatha Story – called the rumours “a load of rubbish”.
He said: “I’ve turned down jobs which would have paid a lot more but I’ve come here because I want to be successful.”
Rooney is without regulars Ethan Laird, George Hall and Tyler Roberts, who are missing through injury.
For Boro, Australian international Riley McGree is still out with a foot injury sustained in their victory against Cardiff City.
Carrick’s side go into the match as heavy favourites, but Rooney will be hoping to start his tenure with a victory against his old colleague.