Two men at the opposite ends of the managerial experience spectrum meet at Pride Park this Saturday, 72-year-old Neil Warnock will be keen to teach Wayne Rooney a trick or two.
Both teams have achieved a total of four points from three games, with Derby County’s barebones squad applying themselves admirably in trying circumstances.
Rooney would be in contention for Manager of the Year if their off the pitch situation persist and he is able to keep them in the Championship.
With this match presenting an opportunity for Boro to get three points and push back into the top six, we look at two curveballs Warnock could throw at Rooney in terms of his tactics on Saturday…
Chuba Akpom seems to be back in the first team picture at Boro, another player Warnock plucked out of the wilderness to bolster his squad last summer.
The former Arsenal man would be a bit of a wildcard selection for the Rams to contend with, a handful on his day, and with the physical threat of Uche Ikpeazu alongside him the ageing backline of Derby could struggle.
In order to play a front pair the 72-year-old could switch to a 3-5-2 system with Djed Spence dropping back to right wing back and Anfernee Dijksteel moving inside to right centre back.
This formation could give more attacking licence to a midfield contingent of Paddy McNair, Matt Crooks and Jonathan Howson, the former two can be especially dangerous in offensive areas.
Full league debut
To add some freshness to that midfield trio, Martin Payero could be introduced to give some further attacking thrust.
Boro are narrow favourites for the match but when you look at the Championship expertise in the lineups and dugouts, it is a bit of a mismatch.
With the solid foundations Warnock’s side are built off, this could be the ideal match to throw Payero in with a very capable pair of defensive midfielders behind him.
Even more so than Akpom, the Argentinian’s introduction would add an unknown quantity into the mix and one that could make Boro’s attacking play less predictable. Rooney must be running his team through the threats of Crooks and Ikpeazu, a Payero curveball could reap the desired rewards on Teesside.