Jose Mourinho has offered sarcastic approval of Aitor Karanka's departure as Middlesbrough boss this week, claiming "he deserved to be sacked" for his success.
Karanka, who was Mourinho's assistant at Real Madrid, left his post at the Riverside Stadium by mutual consent, with his side 19th in the Premier League with 11 games to go.
Boro chairman Steve Gibson insisted that the decision was a mutual one and said the former defender would be "relieved" to be given a break after a tempestuous three and a half years at the club, in which he has clashed with senior players and members of the board on more than one occasion.
Mourinho offered pointed support of Claudio Ranieri following his shock sacking by champions Leicester City but, when asked for his view of Karanka's exit, the Manchester United boss was of a more sardonic mindset.
"I think he deserves to be sacked," he said, speaking ahead of United's trip to the Riverside on Sunday.
"Because, in the first year, when he arrived, the team was going to League One and he saved the team. In the second year, he took them to Wembley to play in the play-off final. In the third year, he had direct promotion. I think, in the fourth year, he deserves to be sacked."
I'd like to thank @Boro for a wonderful opportunity and the players, staff and all the people at the club who I have worked with. #UTB 1/3 pic.twitter.com/JPYTy8XM0H — Aitor Karanka (@Karanka) March 16, 2017
United's meeting with Boro comes at the end of a week in which they have faced an FA Cup quarter-final away to Chelsea and a Europa League last-16 second leg at home to Rostov.
Mourinho hit out at Premier League bosses for their scheduling of the Boro match so soon after the 1-0 win over the Russian side, with Paul Pogba, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo all picking up injuries during that match.
However, the former Chelsea boss insisted he would not consider fielding a team made up largely of players from the youth academy - headed by Nicky Butt - as it would be unfair on Boro's fellow strugglers.
"I don't sacrifice. I don't sacrifice the game at Chelsea. I cannot sacrifice anything," he said. "If I do then I would go to Chelsea with a Nicky Butt team, like Manchester City did a couple of years ago, and I'd be here today with Pogba, [Antonio] Valencia, Rojo - everyone fresh.
"We try to go for every game with the maximum potential we have. But if someone tells us we're going to be playing with 10 men, I'd let the Nicky kids be running up and down.
"Do you want me to go to Middlesbrough and play with Nicky Butt boys? What would Hull City, Sunderland, the teams that play against Middlesbrough for the relegation battle say? We cannot do this. We go with what we have."