Michael Carrick believes that Saturday’s heavy defeat to Everton is a one-off, with Manchester United previously in great form. The former-West Ham United midfielder meets his old employers tomorrow night at Old Trafford in a game that Sir Alex Ferguson’s men dare not contemplate anything other than all three points.
United face lowly West Ham with just 11 games to go in the Premier League season, while Chelsea has a European Champions League fixture. Victory will take Ferguson’s men to within a point of the leaders. Defeat, even in a season of widespread mediocrity, could spell the end of United’s challenge.
But in contrast to Patrice Evra, who stated the players didn’t believe in themselves last Saturday, Carrick says that the team has already written off the result.
“We were surprised at the performance on Saturday and hugely disappointed with the way the game went,” said Carrick, who has won three Premier League titles while a United player.
“We have had some massive games in the last month and played really well over that period of time.
“That is why Saturday was such a shock. I suppose we have to look at it as a one-off. We are certainly not getting too down about things.
“We have to bounce back but the manner of our performances over the past few weeks leads us to believe we can do it again.”
United will certainly be helped by the return of Rio Ferdinand, who has completed a four match suspension. With Wes Brown and Jonny Evans both guilty of glaring defensive errors at the weekend, Ferguson may also choose to bring Nemanja Vidic back into the side. The Serbian has taken part in full-time training for more than three weeks but only made the bench for Saturday’s loss.
In midfield United is again without the suspended Nani and injured Ryan Giggs so Ferguson may choose to hand Gabriel Obertan a match after the Frenchman’s cameo at the weekend.
The manager must also decide whether to keep faith with the Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov partnership that disappointed on Merseyside. Rooney’s muted performance was arguably his worst for several weeks, although the Bulgarian scored a superbly taken goal.
Whatever the formation tomorrow, United now requires dropped points in at least two matches from Chelsea. It offers Ferguson’s side almost no room for error.
“It has been a funny season with the results that have been thrown up and I certainly hope there are more slips before the end, adds Carrick.
“It is frustrating to know we need Chelsea to slip up once or twice but we need it to be a big game when they come to Old Trafford and ensure there is a lot riding on it.
“We still believe we are in there fighting. There are a lot of points to play for so we need to keep winning and apply some pressure.”
Indeed, after the Carling Cup final next weekend United faces winnable games against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Fulham before a 21 March showdown with Liverpool.