Last on Match of the Day... again!

Daily Mail - - The Verdict - CHRIS WHEELER at Old Traf­ford

ANOTHER mean­ing­less fi­nal day of the Premier League sea­son at Old Traf­ford, and another grave­yard slot on Match of the

Day for Manch­ester United.

Sir Alex Fer­gu­son re­tired five years ago this week and United still look well short of em­u­lat­ing his great teams, both in terms of their suc­cess and their style.

Jose Mour­inho’s side can lift the FA Cup at Wem­b­ley this week­end but the days when the club were parad­ing ti­tles at this time of year seem very dis­tant in­deed.

It doesn’t bode par­tic­u­larly well that the man whose skill made the dif­fer­ence against Wat­ford yes­ter­day is re­tir­ing this sum­mer.

Michael Carrick will be hard to re­place, just like so many of his old team-mates from the Fer­gu­son era whose achieve­ments have proved im­pos­si­ble for their suc­ces­sors to match.

At the age of 36, it’s time for Carrick to hang up his boots and take a place along­side Mour­inho on the bench. But on his 464th ap­pear­ance, and first Premier League start of the sea­son, Carrick pro­vided a fi­nal reminder of what made him one of the most cul­tured English mid­field­ers of his gen­er­a­tion.

United were toil­ing to break down a de­cid­edly av­er­age Wat­ford team in the Old Traf­ford sun­shine when he took pos­ses­sion in­side his own half in the 34th minute.

Carrick saw the op­por­tu­nity im­me­di­ately and clipped an ex­quis­ite pass over the top of the Wat­ford de­fence.

Juan Mata’s first touch was just as good as he con­trolled the ball first time and squared it to Mar­cus Rash­ford who scored al­most apolo­get­i­cally into an empty net with Heurelho Gomes stranded.

It was the one true mo­ment of class in an oth­er­wise pedes­trian match be­fit­ting an end-of-sea­son game with lit­tle rid­ing on it. Sadly for United fans, they have grown ac­cus­tomed to that. Carrick had emerged from the tun­nel to a guard of hon­our with his daugh­ter Louise and son Jacey be­fore­hand, and de­parted the stage to rap­tur­ous ap­plause and hugs from his team­mates when he was re­placed by Paul Pogba.

In typ­i­cally self- dep­re­cat­ing fash­ion, he ad­dressed sup­port­ers after the game and sug­gested that his per­for­mance showed why it is time to go.

On the con­trary, he was ar­guably United’s best player. Scott McTom­i­nay will learn a lot from him, and so too could Pogba.

Mour­inho has of­ten lamented the fact that he did not work with Carrick in his prime and did so again yes­ter­day. A new mid­fielder of that cal­i­bre will be on his shop­ping list this sum­mer.

Some­how he must find a way to take United to the next level if they are go­ing to se­ri­ously chal­lenge Manch­ester City and the rest.

Mour­inho claims that 81 points would see United fight­ing for the ti­tle in most other cam­paigns not dom­i­nated by City, and he has a point.

But he also ad­mits that ‘some­thing doesn’t smell right’ at the club, and he is not alone in that opin­ion.

His team have strug­gled to pro­vide en­ter­tain­ment and ex­cite­ment for fans who de­mand it. So of­ten the head­line act, United were last on the BBC’s high­lights last night and not for the first time this sea­son ei­ther.

It will be a chal­leng­ing sum­mer for Mour­inho and one that he has to face with­out his trusted as­sis­tant Rui Faria. In Carrick, at least he has some­one by his side who knows what stan­dards to set.

MANCH­ESTER UNITED (4-3-3): Romero 7; Darmian 6, Bailly 6.5, Rojo 7, Young 6.5 (Shaw 60, 6); McTom­i­nay 6, CARRICK 7.5 (Pogba 85), Blind 5.5 (Her­rera 77, 6); Mata 7, Rash­ford 6, Sanchez 7. Subs not used: Jones, Lin­gard, Va­len­cia, Pereira. Scorer: Rash­ford 34. Booked: Rojo, Young, McTom­i­nay, Shaw. WAT­FORD (4-1-4-1): Gomes 6.5; Jan­maat 6.5, Cath­cart 7, Kabasele 6 (Mari­appa 21, 6) Hole­bas 6.5; Doucoure 7; Deulofeu 6 (Deeney 63, 6), Hughes, Pereyra, Richarli­son 5; Gray 6.5 (Chalobah 72, 6). Subs not used: Prodl, Sin­clair, Luke­bakio, Bach­mann. Booked: None. Ref­eree: Lee Ma­son 7.

At­ten­dance: 75,049

GETTY IM­AGES

Strike: Rash­ford taps into an empty net for United’s win­ner

PA

Hon­our: Carrick leads United out with daugh­ter Louise and son Jacey

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