MANCHESTER, England, January 13 – Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick is glad his days in defence appear to be over as the champions prepare to get their Premier League title bid back on track against Bolton.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have lost their last two league matches, against Blackburn and Newcastle, and trail leaders Manchester City by three points.
A central midfield injury crisis, with Darren Fletcher out for the rest of the season with a bowel condition and Tom Cleverley struggling with an ankle problem, saw Paul Scholes come to Ferguson and offer his services despite retiring in pre-season.
Ferguson used the 37-year-old Scholes as a second-half substitute in United’s 3-2 FA Cup win over holders City last Sunday and the midfielder is expected to play a pivotal role in their bid to retain the Premier League trophy.
And against relegation-threatened Bolton, United have a great chance to put pressure on City — who don’t play until Monday when they face Wigan.
Carrick was happy to help out in defence against Wigan and Blackburn but now wants to continue in his more favoured midfield role, where he is seen as United’s main playmaker since Scholes’ retirement.
“Changing positions is something you’ve got to deal with,” said Carrick. “It’s a different mindset because you’ve got different duties to fulfil but that’s just part of the game.
“I don’t really know to be honest why I have been the one to move to the back. But I don’t mind. I haven’t got a problem with it. It’s about doing what you can for the team.”
United are set to be without Jonny Evans as the Bolton may come just too soon for the Northern Ireland international, who is struggling with a calf problem.
Fletcher and central defender Nemanja Vidic are out for the season but better news surrounds Fabio, nearing full fitness after a hamstring injury, with Ferguson still waiting on Cleverley, Michael Owen and Ashley Young who aren’t expected to return until February.
Bolton manager Owen Coyle has no fresh injury concerns heading into the game but still has a host of long-term absentees.
One of those is Stuart Holden whose injury nightmare started in this fixture last season when a tackle from United defender Evans left him with a broken leg and six months on the sidelines.
A follow-up injury means he is set to miss the remainder of this campaign but the United States international is hoping his Bolton team-mates can give him something to smile about at Old Trafford on Saturday.
“It will never be an easy game, will it?,” said Holden. “But we’ve managed more wins away from home than we have at the Reebok this season, so if we can keep that in mind and put in a solid shift, stay tight, we can come away with some points.”
Gary Cahill may feature for Bolton as his contract negotiations with Chelsea continue to rumble on. Coyle has insisted he will play the defender against United if the deal is not completed.