WORKING over Christmas is a new thing for Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka - but he prefers it that way.

The festive period is one of the busiest times of the year for a football club, and while most industries shut down or scale back over Christmas and New Year, football clubs have to satisfy the hunger from punters - as a result, Boro face five games in 14 days, starting at Millwall this evening.

Back in Karanka’s native Spain, however, it is a different story. His former club Real Madrid play tomorrow and do not play again until January 6.

It is a new situation for Karanka, but it is one he is relishing. “In Spain you can spend your Christmas with your families, with your friends, at home but here I think it’s better that you can spend the time with your families then go and play football, bring the family with you,” the Boro boss, who lost his job at Madrid when Jose Mourinho left for Chelsea, said.

“It’s different, but I like it. I’m happy to spend my Christmas working. At this moment I prefer working, anyway.”

Six weeks into the role, and with only one victory in his five-match reign, Karanka admits that he thought Boro would be higher up the table than they are now.

“I expected to have five or six more points by now. If we had six points more the situation would have been better,” said Karanka. “The confidence would have been better and other things would be better. The situation is this, we need to improve and we know that.”

Karanka and his scouting team are working on potential targets to bring to Teesside when the transfer window re-opens in January, but has shied away from calling his former employers for help.

Karanka laughed: “Not from Real Madrid! Maybe the second team, but Castilla are not in a good position at the moment, I don’t want to take players from the coach, he needs them.

“At this moment I am learning about my players. We have identified players in other countries and at other clubs, we will try to get players in January, but these players would have to be better than the ones we have here.”