Michael Carrick to play centre-back as Manchester United injury crisis worsens

Paul Hirst 4/11/2014
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Jack of all trades: Michael Carrick has sporadically appeared in defence for Manchester United.

 Michael Carrick is set to solve Manchester United’s injury crisis by playing at centre-back in the coming weeks.

Carrick made his first appear­ance of the season on Sunday when he came off the bench to replace injured centre-back Marcos Rojo in United’s 1-0 defeat to Manchester City.

United expect Rojo, who dislo­cated his left shoulder sliding in for a tackle, to be out for some time which is a blow to Louis van Gaal as he is already short of options at centre-back

The United manager is set to be without Phil Jones for some time as the England centre-back is suffer­ing from shin splints – his second injury of the season.

Meanwhile, Jonny Evans has not played for more than six weeks because of an ankle injury while Chris Small­ing is serving a one-match ban for his careless dismissal for two petty fouls on Sunday.

Manchester United defender Marcos Rojo is stretchered off from the pitch after dislocating his shoulder during their 1-0 loss to Manchester City

And Carrick, who has featured in defence on occasion throughout his career, claims that he would have no problem starting there in Saturday’s game against Crystal Palace.

“If I need to play there then fine I have not had a lot of football recently so I will play anywhere,” said Carrick, who suffered a serious ankle injury just before United’s pre-season tour of the USA.

“It’s not somewhere I have played an awful lot of games. I have had spells of playing there over the years, playing two or three or four games in a season. But I don’t mind. I will play anywhere.”

Rojo raised hopes of a speedy recovery yesterday when he tried to play down the extent of the injury on Twitter. “Gracias a todos por los mensajes. Gracias a dios fue solo un mal momento / thank you all for your messages. thank god it was nothing,” he wrote.

Gracias a todos por los mensajes. Gracias a dios fue solo un mal momento/ thank you all for your messages. thank god it was nothing

— marcos rojo (@marcosrojo5) November 2, 2014

We can play @carras16 at Centre Back….but still no doubt need to buy at least Ron Vlaar or £20M on Ezquiel Garay #MUFC

— Michael Wenman (@Mike12121995) November 4, 2014

United believe Rojo, who speaks only limited English, made some­thing of a mistake in his trans­lation of the Spanish part of his tweet. “Solo un mal momento” translates as “only a bad moment”, rather than “nothing”, and the club believe his injury is serious.

The defender was discharged from hos­pital on Sunday and the club have confirmed that the defender had suffered a dislocation. Medical esti­mates of a recovery time from such an injury range from six weeks to three months. In 2011, team-mate Rafael was out for three-and-a-half months with a dislocated shoulder.

That means Van Gaal is likely to field Carrick as a centre-back alongside either Tyler Blackett or Paddy McNair this weekend. 

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Improving by the game: Manchester United under new manager Louis van Gaal.

A worst start to a season in 28 years and sixth derby defeat from seven Premier League matches against your rivals. Yet, the belief in Louis van Gaal’s refurb of Manchester United should not falter after the narrow 1-0 reversal at champions Manchester City.

Watching the last 20 minutes of a local clash that simmered rather than boiled, it would have been hard to know which side had seen a man dismissed. That United had to play the majority in numerical deficit after Chris Smalling’s indefensibly ridiculous pair of bookings made the ending more creditable.

The Red Devils rode their luck on occasion, three clear penalty calls waved away by referee Michael Oliver. Such a scoreline would have been harsh on a side who look on the up.

A look at the table does not make such positive viewing for the red half of the city. Sir Alex Ferguson, who watched glumly from the Etihad Stadium stands, had still not taken over the last time a more inferior beginning was recorded.

The Scot needed almost seven often painful years, requiring great patience and belief from then chairman Martin Edwards, to make things right at Old Trafford. Van Gaal will not be given such a largess of time to turn things around – but neither will he need it. The early weeks of experimentation with an unflattering 3-5-2 formation and overexposed 4-4-2 have gone.

The 4-2-3-1 deployed to great effect in the confidence boosting 1-1 draw with title-winners elect Chelsea and yesterday at the Etihad looks good for a run to the top four.

Central midfielder Marouane Fellaini was again solid alongside the economical Daley Blind. His injection of raw power and running ability provide necessary gusto.

A similar tale can be told for captain Wayne Rooney, an upgrade on the continuingly anonymous Juan Mata. Rooney bristled with commitment, aggression and great skill – his nutmeg through Vincent Kompany would have created a memorable 12th derby goal.

Matches with City have caused almost nothing but pain in recent years for United. The 6-1 humiliation in 2011 was shocking, last term’s 4-1 and 3-0 losses under David Moyes truly dismal.

Bright shoots poked out of yesterday’s performance. For them to flower, a sloppiness that continues to harm must be eradicated.
Smalling’s twin bookings were unfathomable. His motivation for choosing to block a Joe Hart’s kick out and then rashly slide in on James Milner unclear. Partner Marcos Rojo continued to look at sea at centre-back prior to his withdrawal with a shoulder injury.

Left-back Luke Shaw apart, United’s back-four was demonstrative of why they will not be challenging Chelsea and City for silverware. Yet…

Rojo and Smalling were sub-standard, Paddy McNair promising but inexperienced while Antonio Valencia and Michael Carrick a makeshift right-back and centre-back. The failure to adequately recruit in the middle of defence could yet define Van Gaal’s reign.

Consistency has been another issue, defensive mistakes draining away points. With Liverpool – their main rival for a Champions League qualifying spot – playing much worse, a run of wins must arrive.

Arsenal aside, United have a presentable run of fixtures before hosting their nemesis from Merseyside on December 14. Only points on the table will make the promising displays against Chelsea and City worthwhile.

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