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Carrick: Manchester United belong in the knockout stages of the Champions League

Manchester United club captain Michael Carrick has stated that he believes the club is back where they belong as they head into the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday when they head to Spain to face Sevilla. United take on the La Liga side at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium on Wednesday evening which will be the clubs first match at this stage of the competition since the beleaguered 2013/14 season under the lead of former manager David Moyes.

United earned their place in the round of 16 this season after winning their group earning 15 points out of a possible 18, winning five of the six matches played in the competition so far. United last played in the Champions League, before this season, during the 2015/16 season under the management of Louis van Gaal, exiting at the group stage and falling into the UEFA Europa League, where they were knocked out by Liverpool that season. United, under the leadership of Jose Mourinho, won the Europa League last season to earn them a Champions League place this season.

Carrick, who was speaking to MUTV, reported by the official Manchester United website, stating that making it to the knockout stages of the elite European competition should be the standard of the club – he was not being blasé either. The United club captain said:

“It’s what we should expect of ourselves – to be at this stage of the Champions League. That’s not being blasé, it’s just that should be our standard. We should be in this competition and fighting in the later stages most years. This is where we belong and, however, this year pans out, this has to be the standard year in, year out.”

This will be the eighth time in Carrick’s 12-year career at the Theatre of Dreams that the club have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League. Carrick is the only member of the United team which last lifted the famous trophy, ten years ago this year in Moscow 2008 with United winning the trophy for the third time their history – the second time then manager Sir Alex Ferguson had lifted the trophy. United also made the final again twice; in 2009, beaten 2-0 by Barcelona in Rome, then two years later, beaten 3-1 by Barcelona at Wembley.

Reflecting on that period in which United made the UEFA Champions League final three times in four years – winning the famous trophy once, Carrick stated:

“A few years ago, it was relentless. Every season we had some massive games and we tended to do really well in them and it became quite normal. That’s what we need to get back to, these games feeling quite routine.”

Carrick was handed a new one-year contract with the Old Trafford club last summer and this is expected to be his final season at the club, as a player anyway with Jose Mourinho keen to add the veteran midfielder to his coaching team during the summer. This is likely to be Carrick’s last time playing Champions League football of which he states he will enjoy every moment whilst attempting to help his team go as far as possible in the elite European competition. The club captain concluded by saying:

“For me, it’s probably going to be my last few months as a player and that, in itself, creates a different feeling. Towards the end of your career, the bigger games in the league, the cup and certainly in the Champions League, you don’t take them for granted.”

Back in the 1998/99 season, the UEFA Champions League final was played on the 26th May at the Nou Camp in Barcelona, which is the birthday of legendary United manager Sir Matt Busby, who died on the 20th January 1994. United, after conceding the first goal of the game in the sixth minute of the match, did not give up and won a corner in stoppage time. Teddy Sheringham scored the equaliser and moments later, United won another corner which would be remembered as “Beckham into Sheringham, and Solskjaer has won it,” a great memory for any United supporter.

This season, the Champions League final will be played on the 26th May once again, even though that is now played on a Saturday, in 1999 it was a Wednesday evening. The final will be played at the NSK Olimpiyskyi Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine. United’s squad may be going through a bad patch right now but in the 60th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster and the final being played on what would have been Sir Matt Busby’s 109th birthday, it could be written in the stars for United to have another night of glory in May.

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