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Can Karanka bring the best out of Marvin at Boro?
HOW do you solve a problem like Marvin Emnes? Gareth Southgate was the first to encounter it. Gordon Strachan and Tony Mowbray have also tried to benefit from him.
Now Aitor Karanka is ready to give it a go. And the continental approach could well prove the perfect approach for a Dutchman very highly-rated when he joined from Sparta Rotterdam as a teenager for £3.2m in 2008.
It will be six years this summer since Emnes arrived on Teesside and, with the exception of one fine season under Mowbray which almost led to a Premier League switch to Swansea, he has rarely found the consistency he would have liked.
He has previously revealed a belief that many of his frustrations have been down to being put in and out of the side.
After scoring his only goal of this season against Blackpool in August he declared he was happy and eager for a sustained run in the side after Mowbray's claims the player had personal problems.
But Emnes, when fit, has found himself identified as the link man behind the centre-forward since Karanka took over and has favourable first impressions of working under the Spaniard.
“This manager likes to play football, if we can keep playing in that way, that will be good for everyone, not just for me,” said Emnes.
“I have a different role now. It's to help the wingers and the strikers to score goals. I have got to try to perform how he wants.
“When it comes to goals, I have not scored many this season so I'm sure there will be a few to come too.
“He wants me to help provide the link between midfield and the strikers, creating for them, and scoring goals as well. He knows I can score goals and that I like to play football.”
Karanka did his homework on the squad he inherited from Mowbray, so will have been well aware of the former Holland Under-21 international's ability when he threw him in at Leeds for his first game in charge.
He also figured against Bolton and started against Birmingham before hamstring trouble prevented him from playing against Derby and Brighton. After training this week, Emnes hopes to make an impression at Millwall tonight.
“I have been training and hopefully I will be fine,” he said. “I think the manager must like what I can offer. If he plays you, that must mean you are doing something right. In this case I have played a few games under him. That position also suits me where he wants me to play.
“The coach is always there when we train, keeping an eye on who is playing well, who is working hard. When a new manager comes to a club he needs to take time to find out what each player is like. He has done his work and knows about us. We just need to get points now.”
This evening's trip to The New Den will be an opportunity for Emnes and the rest of the Middlesbrough squad to see a few old faces.
Justin Hoyte, Scott McDonald and Nicky Bailey are all at Millwall, even though none of them have been starting in recent weeks for Steve Lomas.
Emnes said: “It will be good fun seeing those players again. We both need the points so it will be tough. The league table does not look right but once you win a few games in this league you are soon back up.
“The only way is to look up now. It takes time under the new manager. Sometimes you can be unlucky too. We have been losing games. I don't know why but I am sure it will change.”
* Marvin Emnes was talking at the club's annual Golden Ticket Party this week at the Riverside. Special supporters had been selected to attend the party, along with the Boro squad and coaching staff, after fighting serious illness or caring for others.