IF Tony Mowbray had the ability to create his perfect footballer in a laboratory it would be Emmanuel Ledesma.
The Argentine would rather lose a foot than lower his standards to a high, hopeful punt up the park. This is a man born to play football the proper way. The Mowbray way.
The only time the ball is put into the air is when Ledesma attempts a cross or a chip. However, it is rarely taken off the grass. Brian Clough would have loved him. Mowbray certainly does.
The 24-year-old was sensational against Sheffield Wednesday in Friday’s night’s 3- 1 triumph at the Riverside Stadium, a result that took his side top of the Championship, albeit temporarily.
His passing was superb, especially in and around the opposition penalty box, was a joy to watch. Everything he does is tinged with class.
Given that he was a free transfer in the summer after a spell with Wallsall, this is a player who has operated under the radar since he moved from Argentine to sign for Genoa (no appearances) before playing in Serie B before a spell on loan to QPR three years ago (17 appearances).
It’s been an unusual journey to Teesside for a lad from South America, but one that so far has been successful.
Mowbray (pictured right) said: “Emmanuel has always shown that eye for a pass even though he over elaborated at times through pre-season. Even at Bury in the Capital One Cup in August he put in a terrific cross for Scott McDonald to score. It was also his cross against Bolton that allowed McDonald to score.
“He has soft feet, nice on the ball, and can feel the eye for a pass, like we saw for Justin Hoyte’s goal against Wednesday on Friday.
“He’s a centre-forward and he’s a second striker; we quite like him as a wide right player because he has a wonderful left foot. He is another player who is a goal threat from wide and through the middle.”
When we talk about South American footballers coming to English football, there are times when it can border on racism.
The stereotype is that they don’t share the British player’s work ethic and the weather, food and style of play doesn’t suit them. Carloz Tevez has a lot to answer for.
But not this man.
Mowbray said: “Manu is a joy to work with. He comes in every day with a smile on his face. That’s good because he doesn’t quite understand every word we are saying.
“He is a wonderful talent, a great work ethic, helps the whole team with his running back into defence.”
Those accolades could also be used to describe Scott McDonald who would have scored again on Friday if Ishmael Miller not stole on from him.
The Australian is so good at drifting off his marker’s shoulder and needing only one touch to get the ball past any goalkeeper.
Which is what happened against Sheffield Wednesday. If only Miller had not felt the need to touch the ball over the line – from an offside position, incidentally – to make it 2-1.
“McDonald is a goal-scorer, he scores different goals to our other players,” added the Boro manager.
“He was sure his effort was going in and Ishmael miller didn’t think it was.
“Scott would probably have done the same, they are both fine and we get on with it. I understand strikers want to score goals but I’m not overly fussed. Scott is enjoying his football, has been scoring goals and there will be more goals for him in the coming months, I’m sure.”
Everyone at Middlesbrough is enjoying their football right now.
The team are winning, scoring goals, not conceding many and there was a crowd just short of 30,000 made it along to the latest home match.
One of the many things going for Boro is their strong squad, in Championship terms, and that has been vital in has been, and what will continue to be, a punishing fixture list.
Mowbray said: “We have had a game every three days and yet we have come out of a seven- match block with six wins and one draw.
“That is a huge credit to the players, now we move on and try to make sure our good form continues.
“The players are not robots, we have had to change things, rested players and I think that has helped us.”