Former Manchester United midfielder Ray Wilkins believes if his old club have any chance of beating Arsenal this weekend, then Michael Carrick has to start.
Wilkins believes another defeat at this stage would kill any chances of United finishing in the top four this season. The former United star says that starting Michael Carrick would represent Jose Mourinho’s best chance of getting another one over on his rival Arsene Wenger, and continuing his impressive head-to-head record.
A win for Wenger’s team this weekend would give Arsenal a nine-point lead over United with almost a third of the season played. Many United fans agree that this is a must-win game because it’s a chance to gain some ground on the teams above. Even a draw wouldn’t be a great result for United as it’s still another two points dropped. Wilkins told Sky Sports;
“Manchester United cannot afford to let Arsenal win at the weekend. Arsenal will bounce clear, and you can’t be giving teams three-game swings at his stage of the season.
“For United to finish in the top four they’ve got to beat Arsenal on Saturday, and it’s going to be tough.”
United will be without suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who seemed in the mood against Swansea, scoring two goals to end his recent drought. Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly are still both injured so Mourinho has problems at centre-back too. On a more positive note, United’s arguably best player this season, Ander Herrera is back from suspension.
Wilkins, however, thinks the key battle will be the control of the midfield and for United to win that, they only have one option; play Carrick.
Carrick played against Swansea where United got their first league win in five and each game Carrick has started the season, United have won. Wilkins said;
“I don’t think United have controlled many games.
“I think with Carrick in the side that’s the only option they have to get some semblance of control and a bit of serenity.
“He sees the game so well, he can hit long passes and if United are going to push up and attack Arsenal you’re going to need that guy, with all his knowledge, to stop counter-attacks.
“I think Michael will have to play for United to have a good chance.”
There’s no doubt United are a better footballing side when Carrick plays and if the match against Swansea was anything to go by, it certainly allows Paul Pogba to play with more freedom, which all the more gives Mourinho some incentive to start Carrick after Pogba hasn’t been his best in some big matches so far this season. Personally, I think Carrick could offer some stability in that midfield, as Arsenal will probably have more possession and United will need to make the possession they have count. I also think anything that allows Pogba more freedom to play his natural game can only benefit United. I think United’s main area of weakness that Arsenal will exploit is the centre-backs. Chris Smalling and particularly, Eric Bailly will be a big miss for United, who need pace at the back going up against the likes of Alexis Sanchez, and Theo Walcott.
Nevertheless, it is a huge game for both teams as United need the points to catch up to the top 4 and Arsenal will want all three points to try and cement their place in the top four as early as possible.