The time has come for Michael Carrick to become the central pivot of the United team, according to Sir Alex Ferguson.
The 30-year-old has been in superb form in recent weeks, corroborating the manager's early-season prediction that he would improve as the campaign wore on.
Carrick bagged his first goal in almost two years to cap another superb display at QPR last weekend, and Sir Alex expects sustainment of those standards for the forseeable future.
"Michael's been one of our best players," the boss told his pre-Wigan press conference. "He's been instrumental in what's happening to the team at the moment. He's grabbed the nettle - there's no question about that. In some ways, he's maybe seen the departure of Paul Scholes as his opportunity to be the main man in midfield.
"I think it's time Michael became the pivotal player of our team. We've always known he's got that in him. He's a laidback character - quiet, unassuming - but in different periods during his time here he's shown his quality. Now is the time for him to start a long period of dominating the centre of midfield like he has in the last few weeks.
"I was quite surprised when I heard that statistic [not scoring for 70 games before last weekend]. But he is quick, you know. You don't see that often because we ask him to control midfield rather than venture too far. But he's quick and he showed that in the goal he scored against Queens Park Rangers."
Carrick has recently been flanked by Phil Jones in central midfield, and Sir Alex feels the talented teenager has helped bring out the best in his senior sidekick. The manager also took time to praise the resurgent form of another comparative old-timer; defender Rio Ferdinand.
"We have two experienced players playing right at their peak now," said Sir Alex. "That's Rio Ferdinand and Michael