City kicked off the fourth-round defeat against the Championship side just 19 hours after stepping off a long-haul flight back from a warm-weather training camp in Abu Dhabi.
Now City hope another 3,500 mile trek can jet Yaya Toure home in time for Saturday’s crucial visit to the Premier League leaders, where defeat would leave them eight points behind Mourinho’s men.
First, City manager Manuel Pellegrini has to hope the Ivory Coast lose their Africa Cup of Nations group game with Cameroon on Wednesday, a result that would free Toure and new signing Wilfried Bony to return to England as early as Thursday.
It was Karanka’s side flying at the Etihad on Saturday, taking the lead when Bamford capitalised on some terrible defending by Fernando and City goalkeeper Willy Caballero.
“Is he a mini Mourinho? Yes, I think he’s definitely getting there,” said Bamford, who is on loan for the season from Chelsea, when asked to compare his two bosses. “I’ve worked with both managers and there are similarities. Training is very similar. And the big thing is the desire to win. You could see that at City — the passion, every detail is in there, he doesn’t miss out a thing and he is very rigorous with his approach to every single game, whether it is Manchester City or whoever else we might play.”
Karanka, an assistant to Mourinho at Real Madrid, landed the Middlesbrough job last season on his mentor’s recommendation and the emphatic nature of this victory — sealed in injury-time by substitute Kike — suggests he is destined for greater things than his current status.
For 21-year-old Bamford, who first caught the eye scoring freely on loan for MK Dons and Derby last season, there is also the hope of establishing himself at Chelsea should his impressive development continue.
“To win against the champions of England has to be the best result of my career so far and one that all the lads will enjoy,” he said. “It’s particularly pleasing being a Chelsea player — so hopefully Chelsea will hear about that.
“Jose hasn’t really outlined the plan for my career. I was going to stay there this season. That was the original plan. But when the chance to bring Didier back arrives, you can’t really turn down Drogba, can you?
“Then Jose gave me the choice, whether I wanted to stay and play bit-parts but he said Boro would be a great option. It was an easy choice in the end. He just wished me luck and said he would be in touch and obviously they are keeping their eye on me. And, as long as they win next weekend then I will be happy.”
City’s problems have come at the worst possible time, a run of three games without a win coinciding with the return to the side of key players like Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko.
Indeed, the case can be made that the defending champions were performing better when the peerless Aguero and club captain Kompany were on the sidelines.
But for Pellegrini, the autopsy on his side’s FA Cup campaign will be dominated by analysis of his — or his owners’ — decision to fly back from the Middle East so close to the tie. Not that the City manager would accept the argument or address whether he would have prepared for the Chelsea game in the same manner.
“It was not a game with Chelsea. I don’t want to say because you are telling me something that is not relevant,” snapped Pellegrini, pointing to defeats for other Premier League teams in the FA Cup this weekend. “Chelsea stayed here. They did not go to Abu Dhabi, Tottenham stayed here. They did not go to Abu Dhabi. I respect your opinion but you respect also mine.”
MANCHESTER CITY (4-2–31): Caballero 5; Zabaleta 5, Boyata 5, Kompany 4, Kolarov 5; Milner 8, Fernando 4 (Dzeko 78); Navas 4 (Lampard 65, 6), Silva 6, Jovetic 5 (Fernandinho 25, 6); Aguero 6.
MIDDLESBROUGH: Mejias 10; Whitehead 9, Ayala 9, Gibson 8, Friend 8; Bamford 9 (Wildschut 90), Clayton 7, Leadbitter 7, Adomah 8; Tomlin 9 (Reach 80), Vossen 7 (Kike 86).
Referee: Phil Dowd 7.