Classy Car­rick cru­cial cog in United ma­chine

Mour­inho re­lies on vet­eran to help set­tle down squad

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in Manch­ester, Eng­land

Amid the likely ro­ta­tion dur­ing the busy fes­tive pro­gram in the Premier League, there’s one player Manch­ester United fans won’t want to see off the team.

For­get Zla­tan Ibrahimovic. For­get Paul Pogba. The most cru­cial mem­ber of Jose Mour­inho’s side might be a 35-year-old de­fen­sive mid­fielder whose best days were sup­pos­edly be­hind him.

Michael Car­rick is mak­ing United tick af­ter be­lat­edly gain­ing Mour­inho’s trust.

The stats back it up: Since Car­rick was re­called on Sept 21, United is un­beaten in the 12 matches he has played, win­ning 10 and draw­ing the other two be­cause of late equal­iz­ers.

In the past three sea­sons, United has a 60 per­cent win rate when Car­rick has started. Without him, it’s 38 per­cent.

Car­rick plays a duel role for United, of­fer­ing pro­tec­tion to the back four through his po­si­tion­ing and an­tic­i­pa­tion, as well as pro­vid­ing a base for its mid­field­ers and for­wards to flour­ish in front of him.

Mour­inho ap­pears to have set­tled on a cen­tral-mid­field three of Car­rick, An­der Her­rera and Pogba in a 4-3-3 for­ma­tion.

Car­rick plays deep­est, Her­rera is the scav­enger just ahead of him and Pogba gets more li­cense to roam for­ward.

It’s no co­in­ci­dence United is get­ting bet­ter per­for­mances out of Pogba, the worl­drecord sign­ing from Ju­ven­tus for $116 mil­lion, now that the France in­ter­na­tional has Car­rick as cover.

In his Sun­day Times col­umn last week­end, for­mer United de­fender Rio Ferdi- nand said Pogba told him Car­rick has “set him free”.

“Car­rick feeds him the ball early, quickly and in ar­eas where he can do dam­age, be­fore teams get set the way they were do­ing be­fore,” Fer­di­nand wrote.

With Pogba fur­ther for­ward, Ibrahimovic has more sup­port along with wide play­ers An­thony Mar­tial, Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan, Jesse Lin­gard and Juan Mata.

Ibrahimovic has im­proved in re­cent weeks, too, with 10 goals in nine games.

At the same time, United isn’t sur­ren­der­ing as many goals with Car­rick, who has 34 caps for Eng­land, sta­tioned in front of the de­fense.

In Car­rick’s last six matches, United con­ceded three and had three clean sheets.

The Old Traf­ford club has won its last three league out­ings to place sixth, four points off the Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion zone.

“We have been say­ing for a num­ber of weeks now that things are click­ing into gear for us,” said for­mer Tot­ten­ham man Car­rick. “We just haven’t had the re­sults to show for that.

“We say it ev­ery year: This time, com­ing into a quick run of games, is a big time. If you can come out of Christ­mas in good shape then you give your­self a real chance.”

The prob­lem for Mour­inho is that United has four games in 13 days, start­ing with Mon­day’s visit of strug­gler Sun­der­land.

United then hosts Mid­dles­brough be­fore a trip to West Ham and an FA Cup tie at home to Read­ing on Jan 7.

At 35, Car­rick will strug­gle to start them all.

The same ap­plies to 35-year-old Swede Ibrahimovic, who has played ev­ery minute in the Premier League this sea­son.

But at least Mour­inho seems to have made his mind up about Car­rick.

In the first six weeks of his first sea­son with the club, the Por­tuguese played the oft­ma­ligned Marouane Fel­laini or Her­rera as his deep-ly­ing mid­fielder.

In the derby against Manch­ester City at Old Traf­ford on Sept 10, Fel­laini and Pogba were the hold­ing mid­field­ers, but they lacked dis­ci­pline for that po­si­tion.

Car­rick brings more shape and rhythm to United’s mid­field. He was the on-field brains for Louis van Gaal dur­ing the Dutch man­ager’s dif­fi­cult two-year reign, and he’s still prov­ing vi­tal in the new era un­der Mour­inho.

the world’s largest an­nual beer fes­ti­val, which Bayern play­ers al­ways at­tend.

“Af­ter one throw, my op­po­nent had al­ready knocked over more than I had in my three at­tempts,” the de­fender told Sky, while be­ing care­ful not to name who won the bet.

Hum­mels seemed happy enough with his new ’do.

“I was afraid it would look worse. It will grow out so in a few weeks it will all be over.”


Michael Car­rick takes con­trol for Manch­ester United against Sun­der­land on Sept 26 at Old Traf­ford. The 35-year-old has been out­stand­ing in United’s mid­field re­cently.

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