LUS : L
●● chester sunshine on the eve of the 50th anniversary of their European Cup triumph, another member of their elite pantheon brought closure to his Old Trafford playing career. Captain Carrick, starter in three Champions League finals and the only 2008 conqueror left on the playing staff, was accompanied by his children as he strode out onto the turf, where both sets of players formed a guard of honour. Carrick did not expect that and seemed visibly appreciative of the gesture ahead of his final United outing. He will be on the bench at Wembley, albeit only in a coaching capacity. Mourinho may have to reconsider that.
The United boss made nine changes in a game where Alexis Sanchez and Ashley Young were the only starters guaranteed of lining up at Wembley on Saturday and Young was substituted first on the hour mark. Chris Smalling dropped out of the squad altogether in what was an obvious rest.
Avoiding injury was the priority on an insignificant afternoon for United. Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind were in the shop window, while Eric Bailly earned an overdue start and was the best player on the pitch.
The only occasion where Carrick looked flustered was as Ander Herrera prepared to emerge on the 77th minute. Daley Blind’s number went up instead and the armband remained strapped to Carrick’s bicep. Mourinho had planned to withdraw him for one last ovation but his new coaching confidant derived more pleasure from playing on for a few more minutes.
Supporters sang his song relentlessly and the chanting became louder as Paul Pogba joined Mourinho in the technical area. Then Carrick’s number appeared in the 84th minute. Some teammates went out of their way to salute him but this was incomparable with John Terry’s narcissistic departure a year ago and Carrick may have come off sooner had he not been halted by Rashford.
Pogba put his hands together and Mourinho hugged him.
Michael Carrick is embraced by Jose Mourinho after being substituted