Aitor Karanka’s spell as Middlesbrough manager has ended with the club the lowest scorers in the Premier League.

Aitor Karanka has been sacked by Middlesbrough with the club in the Premier League’s relegation zone following a winless run in which they have taken only four points from a possible 30.

In a statement, Boro said: “Both parties have agreed that it is in the best interests of the club to make this change.” Steve Agnew will step up from his role as assistant head coach to take control of the first team.

A 2-0 defeat at Stoke two weekends ago has left Boro second from bottom, three points from safety and without a league win in 10 attempts since mid-December. They have failed to score in the past four of those matches and have managed only 19 goals in 27 league games this season.

Karanka, who oversaw promotion last season, has had a strained relationship with some players. Stewart Downing and Patrick Bamford were left out of the squad for last weekend’s FA Cup defeat by Manchester City, with the manager saying he needed “18 fighters”.

Karanka’s criticism in January of the club’s supporters and the atmosphere at the Riverside proved divisive and some fans called for his departure at Stoke.

The Spaniard was appointed by Middlesbrough in November 2013, when the club were 16th in the Championship, five points clear of the relegation zone.

“The club would like to thank Aitor for all his hard work over the past three and a half years and for the success we’ve had during that time,” the statement continued. “We wish him all the best for the future.”

Karanka said: “I’d like to thank Middlesbrough for a wonderful opportunity and the players, staff and all the people at the club who I have worked with. I’d also like to thank the fans for their support. This club will always hold a special place for me and I wish everyone connected with Middlesbrough football club the very best for the future.”

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