MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Nov 21 – Michael Carrick has proved he deserves to be an automatic starter for Manchester United for the rest of the season, according to Ray Wilkins.
The 35-year-old started in United’s 1-1 draw with Arsenal on Saturday, playing at the base of a midfield three which also included Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera.
Carrick, who had been behind Marouane Fellaini in the pecking order for much of the season, impressed in his holding role as United got the best of the midfield exchanges for much of the game against the Gunners.
His presence in front of the back four afforded Pogba and Herrera more licence to venture forward to join in attacks and Wilkins believes Mourinho has found a formula for success, even though United conceded a late equaliser on Saturday.
Wilkins told Sky Sports News HQ: “Mourinho will be extremely upset. I think when you saw his press conference he said it felt like a defeat. I thought United played exceptionally well.
“I think the inclusion of Michael Carrick has to be a permanent for Jose because it allows Herrera – who is finally becoming a Manchester United player in the middle of the field – and Pogba to go and do their work in advanced areas.
“Carrick just gives them that little bit of serenity in the middle of the field when they need to control a game. His passing is fantastic.
“Also, Phil Jones is starting to look a player once again after a long lay-off. That’s an absolute bonus for Jose.”
Mourinho rued his side’s bad luck after the game as United were consigned to a third straight league draw at home after frustrating outings against Burnley and Stoke.
Wilkins believes United’s fortunes will improve over the course of the season if they can play with the same level of intensity as they did on Saturday.
“Everybody has their good luck and everybody has their bad luck,” Wilkins said. “I wouldn’t say they have been the unluckiest team.
“What I did see on Saturday was an energy that I haven’t seen from them before. They put Arsenal under a huge amount of pressure and, for once, the Arsenal players couldn’t cope with that pressure.
“They were flustered in possession of the ball and they did not play the way I’m sure Arsene [Wenger] would have liked them to play.
“I was very impressed with Manchester United. I thought they looked a good side.
“I personally would have played [Wayne] Rooney through the middle from the start and had [Marcus] Rashford out on the left-hand side. [Anthony] Martial is not having such a good time at the moment.
“But nevertheless it was a good performance. I think before the game if you had offered Jose a point he probably would have taken it.”
Saturday’s draw leaves United six points behind Arsenal – who sit fourth in the table – and nine points adrift of league leaders Chelsea.
Wilkins believes Mourinho’s men are too far off the pace to mount a serious title challenge but says qualifying for the Champions League is a must for the club after missing out last season.
“I don’t think the championship is in their capabilities to be perfectly honest but they certainly have to finish in the top four,” Wilkins said.
“The Champions League needs Manchester United and Manchester United are desperate for it.
“They have to get into that top four.”
By Sky Sports