07/04/2013 22:30, Report by Gemma Thompson
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Carrick's peer praise

Sir Alex Ferguson says the plaudits Michael Carrick receives from team-mates and fans alike at Old Trafford will always mean more to the midfielder than any awards.

While the 31-year-old is a strong contender for the club’s in-house Player of the Year award, he is also reportedly in the running for the main external prizes, namely the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year prizes.

Sir Alex feels Carrick has now taken over Paul Scholes’ midfield mantle and has been delighted to see his performances recognised by the United faithful.

“The fans had Scholesy to drool over for years, but Michael has taken up the baton and done well,” said the Reds’ manager, who also confirmed Scholes will return to full training on Monday.

“I don't pay too much attention to these awards. If he is recognised by us and recognised by the fans - you hear them now singing about Michael all the time - that satisfies him much more than an award.”

Carrick is one of a number of players Sir Alex believes have made big strides forward this term as the Reds have bounced back with a vengeance from title heartbreak last season.

“The maturity of the team is better,” insisted the boss. “Rafael has made fantastic improvement. Michael Carrick has developed into an absolute mature and intelligent footballer, which we always knew he had, but he didn't have the consistency of Paul Scholes. He has been fantastic this year. De Gea has improved as the season has gone on. Next year he will be even better.

“There are a lot of pluses for us. Our goals for is much better and our goal difference is much better. The

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