Menu

Why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should consider a Manchester United backroom staff shake up

The frustration for most Manchester United fans as the club enters the midpoint of the January transfer window is that the Reds are yet to invest in the playing squad. In over a year of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s rebuild, only three players have been signed, and even they were seen to be overly long and drawn out. 

Solskjaer and those behind the scenes will continue to toe the line that only the right types will be brought in and that it is incredibly hard to bring in new talent to the club in the month of January. However, it might be an easier task to acquire the right new first team coaches for the manager to work with. Solskjaer is still learning on the job and has a squad not currently able to perform consistently, so could new ideas on the training ground lead to a sustained upturn in form? 

After David De Gea’s mistakes against Everton and Watford in December, United drafted in Craig Mawson from Burnley as a new assistant first team goalkeeping coach just before the new year. De Gea’s form in the past 12 months has been questionable but a turnaround in fortune in 2020 for the Spaniard could be the example to form a new focus on recruitment for the club.

The likes of Mike Phelan, Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna have been part of Solskjaer’s team since he arrived, although there were rumours that Phelan was to take over the role of technical director in the summer.  Since their appointments full time, fans are yet to see a substantial style of play emerging and as ever these days, managers and coaches are quick to be compared, especially with those at rival clubs. After watching Leeds United at Arsenal in the FA Cup, many wondered how Marcelo Bielsa and his staff could make a Championship team so comfortable in possession.

The truth is simply that United’s coaching staff don’t have the experience yet. In particularly Carrick, who only retired from football in May 2018 and McKenna, who prior to Jose Mourinho’s final season in charge, had only managed United and Tottenham Hotspur’s under 18’s. Although Carrick and McKenna have received backing from players, when results aren’t forthcoming, inevitably most will start to doubt their ideas.

On the other hand, a decade ago Phelan was part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s backroom staff that won three titles in five seasons and reached two Champions League finals before his departure in 2013. Since then however, he has endured a disastrous spell as manager at Hull City. There’s no doubt that Phelan was and still could be a good coach, but it’s questionable whether or not he is still in touch with the modern footballer and the game’s tactics.

Shortly after Phelan was sacked at Hull, it was revealed that the average Premier League manager lasts 91 games, with a win percentage of 30%. Solskjaer currently is on 61 matches as United manager, although currently has a better win percentage of 49%. Concerningly, this has decreased significantly ever since he was appointed permanently and could well reach the average by the end of the season. When Solskjaer came in originally, his ideas were fresh and it breathed new life into the squad who had clearly became tired of Mourinho’s approach.

To survive at United, Solskjaer will need to borrow some ideas from the great Sir Alex Ferguson, who consistently changed his coaches every few seasons to keep all aspects of training innovative. Ferguson moved from Steve McClaren to Carlos Queiroz and then onto Phelan almost seamlessly with continued success, while his changes in coaching staff often signified the dawning of a new team. From what we hear, Solskjaer isn’t going anywhere and Ed Woodward has total faith in him. For Solskjaer to be afforded the time to build his own teams however, he may have to constantly rebuild his own backroom staff.

Written by Alex Metcalfe

Manchester United may not have replaced Michael Carrick but there is a gem from within who could fill the void

Manchester United have a problem in midfield this summer which requires strengthening, according to Danny Murphy on talkSPORT. The former Liverpool and England midfielder has suggested that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has work to do in replacing Michael Carrick, who retired at the end of the 2017/18 season, becoming a coach at the club.

Carrick signed for United from Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2006 for a fee of £14 million, which could have risen to £18.6 million. The combative midfielder played for the club for 12 seasons before hanging up his boots and becoming a coach under Jose Mourinho and continuing under Solskjaer. Carrick was the reason United’s midfield has depth.

During his career at the club, as a player, Carrick won five Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups, six FA Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League, one UEFA Europa League and one FIFA Club World Cup – only the UEFA Super Cup is missing from his list of honours. A great career for a great midfielder.

During the summer, United were linked with many midfielders, failing to sign a single one. Having sold Marouane Fellaini in January and with Ander Herrera leaving as a free agent in the summer, it was expected that at least two central midfielders would be signed. However, that did not happen. Solskjaer’s side may have wanted to make signing though.

For the duration of the summer, Solskjaer was linked to Newcastle United midfielder Sean Longstaff, a connection that was mocked by supposed supporters of the club on Twitter. It would seem that supporters think United should be signing experienced world class players, ignoring the fact that Longstaff has the skills to be a great player.

Former Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez one stated that Longstaff was like Carrick but with more mobility and more in the tank. If only some supposed United supporters looked forwards instead of always looking back, they might understand the game a bit more. There is little point buying ready-made players, helping to develop younger players works.

Carrick was a deep-lying midfielder, one that did not rely on pace, stamina, physical attributes, box-to-box play or tackling like a typical midfielder. Instead, Carrick relied on his reading of the game, helping him to anticipate attacking threats from the opposition. This helped him and all the teams he played for. Carrick has been praised by legends of the game, including Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Xavi and Xabi Alonso.

Longstaff is a born leader, he has perfect his passing to the best of his abilities, he gets stuck into the game and has his entire career ahead of him. You should be able to see why Longstaff was linked to United and why Newcastle seemed to put a huge price tag on the player this summer, seemingly wanting to keep him. Speaking about United’s midfield, Murphy told talkSPORT:

“And then of course in the middle of the park I’m still not sure that it’s the right balance.

“I think they need another, I keep saying it, Michael Carrick, but where do you find a Michael Carrick?

“But that type, someone who can sit in there, [Paul] Pogba likes to go forward and do his bit, someone who can sit in there.

“[Scott] McTominay’s a good player but he’s not someone that can dictate tempo like Carrick did. They’ve never replaced him as far as I’m concerned.”

United though, have a player of their own who could help strengthen the midfield and add something Carrick-esque in the centre of the pitch. His name is James Garner. The 18-year-old has made his first team debut for United but has yet to play a considerable amount of minutes at a competitive level. He was involved in the clubs summer pre-season tour.

Garner has started to establish himself in the U23 squad this season, under Neil Wood and Quinton Fortune, playing all 360 minutes of action with United beating Rotherham United 2-0, West Bromwich Albion 5-0, Reading 2-0, and Newcastle United 4-0, showing his ability and more importantly his development at a higher level than U18 football.

Garner has four goals and one assist at this level this season, scoring a brace against West Brom, once against Reading and Newcastle, getting his assist against Rotherham in the EFL Trophy. Garner may not be ready to be considered for the first team right now but during the course of the season, if he continues on this trajectory, the world could be his oyster.

Michael Carrick’s departure leaves a void Manchester United must address

After an illustrious tenure with Manchester United, Michael Carrick has called an end to his playing career. He will join Jose Mourinho’s managerial staff next season. The former Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United man won five Premier League titles, a Champions League, an FA Cup and three League Cups during his time at Old Trafford.

Brought in to solidify United’s central midfield following the acrimonious departure of Roy Keane, his task was unenviable. The Irishman hadn’t just been a talismanic club captain vital to United’s domestic dominance and continental exploits, he was an embodiment of what supporters crave to see on the pitch. Keane’s all action, blood and thunder, no prisoners approach made clear his quality, passion and desire.

The English game has always been more attracted to the visceral that football has to offer. Crunching tackles and moments of individual brilliance — attributes Keane possessed in spades — have always captured the imagination of fans more than the composure, skill and guile which characterized Carrick’s play. It took time for the club’s supporters to adjust to the new norm. Acclimating from Keane’s obvious and visible contributions to Carrick’s more graceful and methodical approach was gradual, but the trophies which poured in following his arrival made clear his quality.

His steady approach in the center of the pitch was key to that success. Perhaps the biggest compliment which can be paid to Carrick is his versatility allowed him to play array of roles alongside a number of different partners effectively throughout his career.

He was capable of shielding the back four as a defensive midfielder and recycling possession to a more creative force. Carrick performed this function to a high degree alongside Paul Scholes at the outset of his time with the club, sacrificing his own considerably playmaking ability for the benefit of the team.

Later on, as Scholes declined and Darren Fletcher dealt with health issues, he took up more responsibility as a playmaker. A hallmark of Ferguson’s final team during the 2012/13 season, in which United won their 20th and last league title, was Carrick operating as a deep-lying playmaker.  He would pick up the ball off the center backs and spray incisive forward passes to put United on the front foot.

Regardless of what his specific role and function Carrick was, it was his innate ability to connect the team together in ways difficult to quantify with stats which set him apart. He was never a prolific goalscorer, nor was he setting up goals, but it’s no coincidence his introduction into the team coincided with one of the most successful runs in United or any English club’s history.

He was the glue which helped blend together disparate parts of the team and meld them into a cohesive unit. He possessed the rare talent to control and dictate the tempo of the game. United were blessed to transition from Scholes — who also shared this unique ability — to Carrick seamlessly. His gradual decline in recent years which coincided with Ferguson’s retirement has helped to drive home how difficult of a role it is to play and how important a void it is to fill.

Despite splashing vast sums on midfielders like Ander Herrera, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin and Marouane Fellaini under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, United struggled to control matches. Even when they did turning that control into goals and chances proved difficult. Both managers inevitably had to turn to Carrick to solidify their play although the ravages of time meant he no longer had the legs to perform the dual tasks of providing defensive cover and operate as a deep-lying playmaker.

Jose Mourinho’s arrival saw United splash the cash on a world record fee for Paul Pogba followed by Nemanja Matic’s arrival from Chelsea a year later. Yet United still lack the fluency in their play which Carrick’s presence guaranteed.

Pogba’s physicality, creativity and brilliance going forward are unquestioned, but he lacks the game intelligence to control matches from midfield or to consistently elevate the team’s performance himself. At just 25 years old it’s still possible for him to develop that understanding, but for, now he’s best used in a free attacking role where others do the grunt work defensively and initiate play from deeper. Matic, while possessing excellent defensive awareness and an ability to retain possession and carry it forward against pressure, simply doesn’t have the creativity and passing range of Carrick.

Mourinho’s Manchester United possess undoubted individual quality. They, however, remain in search of an identity and cohesiveness to elevate them as a group. It is yet another task for which a young Michael Carrick would have undoubtedly been the man for.

Written by Ashwin Ramnath

Michael Carrick says Paul Pogba has a big future at Manchester United, closing down the speculation

Manchester United coach Michael Carrick has insisted that Paul Pogba has a future at the Old Trafford club. The French international who has met up with his France teammates today for their first training session ahead of the FIFA World Cup in Russia this summer made his move back to the Theatre of Dreams nearly two years ago for £89 million, then a world record. Since the move, Pogba has been criticised for not finding his best for by supporters, pundits, former players and Jose Mourinho.

There have been many stories suggesting that Mourinho and Pogba had a bust-up with the tabloid newspapers seemingly knowing everything about it, running many different ‘exclusive’ stories about the said bust-up. Mourinho and Pogba have both played down the speculation, which seems to keep coming back like a boomerang. This season saw an improvement from Pogba, at times, but injury, suspension and a loss of form had seen him dropped from some matches.

Carrick retired at the end of the season and will take his place in a new look team of backroom staff at the start of next season. The veteran United player has spoken about the future of the Frenchman, who appeared on television in France earlier in the week where he was asked if he will remain at United this summer. His answer stated ‘contractually, yes’ or words to that effect, which, you guessed it, has seen the speculation surrounding his future at the club return. Speaking to Sky Sports, Carrick said:

“Of course he’s got a future, he’s a big player for us, he’s a great age, he’s got his peak years ahead of him. It’s not even something I’d give a second thought to, to be honest.”

United finished in second place to Manchester City in the Premier League this season, 19 points adrift of the record-breaking side led by Pep Guardiola. After Mourinho’s first season at the club. in which they clinched the FA Community Shield, the EFL Cup and also won the UEFA Europa League, United only had the chance of winning the Emirates FA Cup at the weekend, in which they were beaten by Chelsea, all to an Eden Hazard penalty, given away by Phil Jones.

Despite the lack of silverware, the season was not in vain as United have improved based on the previous season. They had beaten the top six teams this season, not all the time, but more than last season, also scoring more goals, won more matches and generally seemed to be better at getting results, apart from the three defeats against the teams which were promoted from the Championship the season before. Carrick, speaking about how a trophyless season was not ideal, said:

“Like the manager said before the game, the manager isn’t going to judge the team on one game. We’ll learn, we’ve managed to pick up trophies in the last few years, and obviously not winning one is not ideal for us.

“But we’re looking ahead now, whether we’d won it or not you don’t look back, we’ve got to look to next season and it has to be a big one for us. We’re not looking at City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, anyone. We’re looking at ourselves to improve, we believe we’re capable of improving a lot and we’ll see where that takes us.”

Carrick spent 12 years at United and won everything he could. His new career will be as a coach at the club, under Mourinho, with more changes coming, not that any have been confirmed by the club yet. Carrick is a well-respected member of the team and the players respect him as much as the manager, his colleagues, and the supporters. United will have a big summer ahead of them, where the problems amongst the players will need to be resolved and positions within the team strengthened. Carrick, concluding, said:

“It’s a big challenge, the same routine in many ways but a different role.

“I’m looking forward to it, I’m really excited, I’m well aware that just because you’re a half-decent player it doesn’t mean you’re going to be the same as a coach.

“I’ve got to put in the work, have to learn, start from scratch, and I’ve got the best man to learn from in Jose. I’m really looking forward to it.”

United are said to be after a right-back, a left-back, a central defender, at least one central midfielder (to replace Carrick, another if Marouane Fellaini leaves on the expiry of his contract), and a winger, preferably on the right, which is where United have fallen short, having to shoe-in players who just do not adapt to the role. Mourinho has a big job on his hands, and he will know that. Carrick moving into a coaching role will be a big part of that, especially when the style of play needs to be changed. Keeping Paul Pogba is a must, he needs to kick on at United and impress.

The beginnings of philosophical change at Old Trafford?

The season end is rapidly approaching and whilst there is still a chance at silverware as Manchester United face of with Chelsea in this weekend’s FA Cup final, the clogs are already in process to prepare for next season, Jose Mourinho’s third and most important campaign to date. Whilst transfer talk is simmering, it is a move off the pitch that has caught the eye as there will be a re-shuffle in the home dugout next season at Old Trafford.

In the build-up to the final home game of the season, Rui Faria announced he would be stepping down as assistant manager and whilst he has only been at the club for two years the decision severs a 17-year relationship with Mourinho. Mourinho and Faria have conquered Europe as a double act producing two UEFA Champions League titles and numerous league titles across Europe. Whilst Mourinho has picked up the plaudits and the notoriety, Faria has played his part along the way.

Mourinho put faith into his Portuguese compatriot at FC Porto and he has continued to guide and sculpt his development and ever since the pair has become extremely close with Mourinho describing him as a brother on numerous occasions. Faria is looking to take a break from football but has stated his intentions to return in the future but as the leading man, the head coach. The media have been quick to pick up his next possible move with Arsenal and Chelsea touted, he is, of course, the special one’s protégée.

This departure leaves a hole in the United back room and over the years it has been a vital piece to the puzzle, Carlos Queiroz, Rene Meulensteen and Mike Phelan were all integral members to Sir Alex Ferguson’s arsenal. However, Mourinho has addressed the situation quickly stating that Faria will not be replaced. An interesting move, given the apparent importance of an assistant manager in today’s game.

Although there will be no direct replacement, Michael Carrick’s illustrious career came to an end at the Theatre of Dreams, he even managed to roll back the years with a delightful through ball to create the game’s only goal. It has been made clear all season that Carrick will join the back-room staff and Mourinho added that he sees Carrick as a future assistant manager. This is a welcome change for years gone by as we have witnessed the club slip into unchartered territory since the departure of Ferguson.

Whilst Nicky Butt, a member of the treble-winning squad, is now the head of the Academy, United have lost, Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and when you consider Paul Scholes and Gary Neville departed in the last decade a lot of experienced and important characters have completely cut ties with the club and although some are still playing, coaching or in punditry it is United’s loss as these types of players are born winners and have the personality and endeavour that is required at the Old Trafford club.

I firmly believe as other clubs have over the years such as Bayern Munich with Franz Beckenbauer, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Miroslav Klose, Barcelona with Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola and Ajax with Marc Overmars and Edwin van der Sar that it is a real advantage to transition or acquire these exemplary professionals so they can work with the development of the youth sides and guide the club in the right direction.

With a coach like Mourinho at the realm, who is himself a serial winner, a man who has been there and done it and gone back again, that it is a real opportunity for Carrick to flourish under his tutelage. He has been touted by many of his teammates to go on to be a successful coach and from watching him read the game so well with his footballing brain it is not hard to see why. Therefore, although it is a small step, I believe it is one in the right direction, a decision that could truly shape the football club going forward.

It would be a complete travesty to not retain any of the legends that gave their careers as servants to the club over a period of dominance and success. Who knows, in ten years’ time it might be Carrick himself sat in the hot seat.

Written by Josh Keifer

Michael Carrick devastated to hear about Sir Alex Ferguson but hoping that he will pull through

Manchester United captain Michael Carrick sent an emotional and moving tribute to former manager Sir Alex Ferguson after the reports of him suffering from a brain haemorrhage on Saturday evening. Ferguson won 38 trophies as the United manager for over 26 years at the Theatre of Dreams, ending his time as manager at the end of the 2012/13 season, winning his 13th Premier League title before signing off as the gaffer.

Carrick was signed by Ferguson in the summer of 2006, a difficult transfer with Tottenham Hotspur, which is something Ferguson has spoken about on endless occasions, playing under Ferguson for seven years before he left his management role, becoming a director at the club. The 36-year-old, who is retiring himself at the end of the season to become a coach under Jose Mourinho stated that he was devastated to learn about Ferguson’s condition, much like everyone else at the Old Trafford club. Reported by the official Manchester United website, Carrick said:

“I was devastated. I got a text on Saturday evening and I couldn’t quite believe it. It didn’t really sink in. I was just devastated.

“It’s one of them where you start hearing different things which is quite dangerous and quite disturbing. I just stayed calm and spoke to a few people at the club to get a bit of a rundown on how he was doing.

“The whole world showed their support and I was just concerned about him, as an ex-manager and a friend – as he was to everyone. It was the effect he had on everyone. He means a lot to me, as he does to this club.

“It was a tough night on Saturday and we were waiting for some positive news. We were all praying for him and thinking of him, Cathy and the family. It’s a tough time for everyone but I’m thinking positive and hoping he will pull through.”

Sir Alex Ferguson has had many people from the world of football and beyond wish him all the best during his recovery, which seems likely to be a long progress, something he will not be afraid of based on the fight the Govan-born manager has. Other football clubs have offered their support in the 76-year-old as well as rivals showing the utmost respect they have for the successful manager who made the Premier League with his utter brilliance. Carrick concluded by saying:

“It just shows you the mark of the man and the respect he had. The whole football world is incredible but outside of that as well, from all corners of the globe and different walks of life, people have shown their support. That’s the effect he had on people.”

The lack of news coming from the hospital about Ferguson is alarming as all we want to hear is that he has come through that tough period and is now well on the road to recovery. No news is good news, as far as the saying goes anyway. Sir Alex Ferguson us someone who embodies Manchester United, as Sir Matt Busby does and he will be a figure that we all miss in the dugout for years to come. It has been five years since his retirement and it still upsets me that the magnificent time he spent at the club had to come to an end.

What Michael Carrick can bring to his coaching role?

When Michael Carrick finishes his playing career at the end of this season, it will mark the end of what has been a massively successful career for the midfielder. The 36-year-old has won a number of major honours at Old Trafford including five Premier League titles and a Champions League win back in 2008.

Although it will be sad for such a talented midfielder to end his career, it marks the start of a new chapter in Carrick’s career when he takes up a role on Manchester United’s coaching staff. After playing at the top for such a sustained period for both club and country, what can Carrick bring to his new role as a coach?

Carrick joined United back in 2006 for just over £18 million, a fee which was frowned upon at the time for a player who had only played 60 games for Tottenham previously. However, then Spurs boss Martin Jol stated:

“I don’t want to lose a player like Michael, who was probably our best midfielder last season.”

Carrick won the league title in his very first season at Old Trafford making 33 appearances, scoring three goals. He was an integral part of United’s team for the next two season’s as United won two more league titles and the Champions League.

His best season at United came in the 2012/13 season where Carrick was named in the PFA Team of the year, in the same season that Carrick won his fifth league title with United in Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season before retiring.

Since the departure of Ferguson, Carrick has been an important figure on the pitch, but more so off it, as he was one of the most experienced players in the dressing room.

Carrick took his coaching badges last season and began working with United’s under 14’s as he starting to prepare for life after playing. After Carrick’s testimonial last season former manager Sir Alex Ferguson said he thought the 36-year-old ‘has the natural abilities to do the job’.

It was revealed last month that the midfielder will retire at the end of the season, after only playing three times since a heart operating back in November. Jose Mourinho, then divulged that Carrick would, in fact, join United’s coaching set-up from next season, and made his debut in the United dugout in the recent win against Swansea.

Carrick can bring a lot to his new coaching role, despite his lack of experience as a coach. He has much experience on the playing side, having played at the top for a number of years and winning every major honour in club football. Not only that, he will automatically have the respect of everyone in the dressing room, and people will listen to him which is half the battle.

To have his first coaching role under such a manager as Jose Mourinho is really going to set-up the former England midfielder for a successful career in coaching and maybe one-day management. If Carrick has a successful coaching career like he has done in his playing career he will be very successful, but he is going to need time to learn the ropes.

Written by Dan Pearce

Michael Carrick to retire at the end of the season which really will mark the end of an era

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho had already given us all a clue that Michael Carrick will hang up his boots at the end of the season and today the 36-year-old confirmed that he will be calling time on his playing career. Carrick had previously been offered a place on Mourinho’s coaching staff whilst he was on the sidelines with a heart condition, which he has now overcome and can play some of the remaining matches for his club this season.

Carrick signed for United from Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2006 and despite taking some time to settle, as he was brought in to replace Roy Keane, who departed the club the year previous, despite not being the same type of player as him. Carrick soon settled in and started to gain the respect he had earned. Since signing for United, Carrick has won five Premier League titles, one FA Cup, three League Cups, six FA Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League, one UEFA Europa League and one FIFA Club World Cup.

Carrick, confirming his retirement at the end of the season and a career which many will be proud of spoke at the manager’s press conference ahead of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg clash with Sevilla at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening, saying:

“I think it’s pretty much already been said, to be honest with you. There comes a time when, as much as you like or don’t like it, your body tells you it’s time to stop playing football. That’s pretty much where I’m at, which is fine. It’s something you have to accept. That’s where I’m at.”

Carrick has seemingly been offered a role on Mourinho’s coaching team from the start of next season which should see him remain at the Old Trafford club, giving a little more of his experience but in a different way. United have some great coaches but in his time at United, Carrick has earned the plaudits, especially his role at the club after Class of 1992 graduate Paul Scholes retired. Carrick, speaking about the role he has been offered, which is not set in stone yet, said:

“Yes. It’s kind of been sorted out. We’re still talking about it, to be honest, so there’s nothing totally confirmed as yet. But it’s looking likely, yes.”

Back in the summer of 2006, Carrick arrived from Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, the fourth professional club the England midfielder had played for after starting his career at West Ham United, coming through their Academy, being loaned to both Swindon Town and Birmingham City, before being sold to Spurs. United paid around £14 million for Carrick back then, something which will be seen as a bargain based on what he has offered the club and helped put them in contention to winning, sealing 12 major honours.

Carrick was rewarded with a testimonial last summer and it was thought he would end his career then but the club offered him a new one-year deal, which was what he deserved at the time. Carrick hopes to play a part in the run-in this season with United playing two important matches this week in the Champions League and the Emirates FA Cup after his teammates put in three great performances recently, beating both Chelsea and Crystal Palace – coming from behind and a home victory over Liverpool, which always feels good.

The 36-year-old has spent much of this season on the sidelines after finding out he had a heart condition which kept him out of contention for a while but towards the end of 2017, he was back in training and ready to be picked for his team in January. Carrick has played four times this season, once in September against Burton Albion, where his heart problem commenced, putting in three recent appearances against Yeovil Town and Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup and Newcastle United in the Premier League. Speaking about his condition, Carrick concluded by saying:

“Obviously, I had the problem in the Burton game, when it started during the second half, and then had a few tests after that. The same problem came back on the Sunday of that week in training, so then I had the procedure the following week, which I went through and now it’s totally fine and I’m clear. It took a little bit of time to get over but there were some times when, for two or three days, I was thinking ‘am I going to carry on playing or not?’ or ‘is it kind of worth it or not?’ but that quickly passed.

“I got back fit and I wanted to finish on my own terms really. At least I could decide and not be forced because of that, so I was determined to get back fit. I understood after getting back fit that I wouldn’t be playing as many games as perhaps I might have done, but that’s something that I understood. I’ve just been training hard and trying to keep fit and have managed to play a few games so far and we’ll see what happens towards the end of the season.”

Carrick’s presence in the team will be missed but in the summer Mourinho has stated that the central midfield position will be one he needs to reinforce, especially with Marouane Fellaini looking likely to leave the Old Trafford club on the expiry of his contract. That will leave United with Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Scott McTominay as the experienced members of the midfield in the first team, leaving possible two positions to be filled, maybe more if more talented youth gain chances under Mourinho during the pre-season tour and into the new season.

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.

Mourinho discusses player injuries; Pogba now considered a long-term absentee

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has confirmed during his pre-match press conference ahead of Saturday’s Premier League clash with Crystal Palace that both Michael Carrick and Phil Jones will miss the fixture, both also missing the 4-1 victory over CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League in Russia on Wednesday evening. It will be a big blow for United, as their injuries are starting to take hold at this stage of the season. United already have Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo on the injury list with Paul Pogba added in the last few weeks.

Antonio Valencia and Marouane Fellaini were both added to the crocked list ahead of the trip to Moscow, both players not travelling with the rest of the squad. It means that Mourinho has been left with just Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera in midfield with Academy graduate Scott McTominay brought into the travelling squad for the Russia match, although he did not play a part in the match. Anthony Martial came off in the late stages of that match with a knock, but along with Valencia and Fellaini, he could be available this weekend.

Mourinho, speaking in his press conference on Friday afternoon confirmed to the official Manchester United website about both Carrick and Jones, who will miss the Palace match this weekend, saying:

“They are out. They were out and tomorrow some will be out. What I’m saying is that from all the injuries we had, I hope that I can have some players available for tomorrow.

“We have to train and make decisions after training [today]. But I hope some of the players that couldn’t play in Moscow can recover.”

Paul Pogba has been subject to much speculation since he came off after 19 minutes in the 3-0 victory over FC Basel in the Champions League over a fortnight ago, speculation suggesting he will be out of action for twelve weeks, something Mourinho has dismissed, but in Friday’s press conference, the Portuguese manager labelled Pogba as a long-term injury along with both Ibrahimovic and Rojo, saying:

“He’s injured [Pogba]. He cannot play tomorrow and it’s not an injury that I can have the hope like I can have with Valencia or Jones. With them, I have the hope to see them training and to have a positive answer. For long-term injuries, I don’t speak about them, so Ibra, Pogba, Rojo and these players, I don’t think about them.”

Speculation will run rife again after Mourinho confirmed that Pogba is now a long-term injury, which will be a big blow for United, but one which McTominay and others could benefit from. Injuries have always been a thing at United, especially recently. It is because of injury that United have been able to play talented youth, Gary Neville taking advantage of the around 25 years ago with Paul Parker on the sidelines, Neville making the right-back position his own, proving himself and becoming the Manchester United captain.

Mourinho has stated that he will not speak about Pogba, Ibrahimovic and Rojo, so I doubt there will be official confirmation as to how long Pogba will be out of action. Mourinho has confirmed that both Ibrahimovic and Rojo will be out until the second half of the season, suggesting both could be back, in some respect, during the month of January, seeming like new signings for United as the pair would have been out of action since April 2017. With a bit of luck, Pogba will not be out for that long, possibly a month or two – unless Mourinho is pulling the wool over our eyes.

copyright: JW