'I never imagined this would happen'
Michael Carrick admits it will be a special experience to lead Manchester United out at a packed Old Trafford, when Arsenal provide the opposition in the 20:15 GMT kick-off.
Our former midfielder is still in caretaker charge of the side while interim boss Ralf Rangnick awaits his work visa and is keen to build on the positive performances against Villarreal and Chelsea.
In this exclusive chat with club media's Zarah Connolly at Carrington, he discusses the Gunners game, opposing manager Mikel Arteta, the latest on the injury front and the form of David De Gea in goal...
“Yeah, it’s obviously a huge privilege and one I never imagined would actually happen at any stage. So to be in that position is a huge sense of pride and responsibility, of course. You know, I’m a fan and my family are just supporters of Manchester United anyway, so to be in that seat will be a good feeling. I still keep going back to I can’t hide the fact I am here because of the situation with Ole so I’m not getting carried away with at all. I’ll try to make the most of it tomorrow night but actually it’s about the players, the team and getting the right result.”
United versus Arsenal isn't a derby but it's the most played-fixture in the club's history. What sort of memories and emotions come to mind when you think of this game?
“There have been some classics over the years. I’ve been involved in some and watched from afar before I even got here. So, yeah, there’s always been a special feeling around this game and an edge around the fixture. The boys are looking forward to it, we’re looking forward to it, these are the big games you want to be involved in, and obviously we’re trying to come out on top.”
“He was a terrific player, very technical, and that’s the way his teams plays and obviously the way he has coached them in that style shows what type of player he was. I think he’s done a very good job at Arsenal and you can see they’re going in a certain direction and been pretty strong with that. So credit to him for that and it’ll be interesting to see how they get on for the rest of the season.”
There were two encouraging performances at Villarreal and Arsenal, so does that give you confidence going into another big game?
“Confidence is always important in any sporting arena, if you like, and, yeah, when you step onto that pitch at Old Trafford, you want to have belief and confidence that you can go and do what you’re good at. Certainly, the players will have that feeling. They were two very different games, the Villarreal and Chelsea games, and two decent results. Two wins would have been even better but maybe that’s a bit too greedy at this stage. The boys are looking forward to it on Thursday night.”
United v Arsenal: Press conference part two
The second half of Carrick's press conference is packed with chat about Rangnick, Fletcher, Ronaldo and injuries...
“Nothing really new. There are always niggles at this time of year, playing a lot of games. There are always players you’re waiting on a little bit, to an extent. Obviously Harry [Maguire] is coming back into the squad after his suspension but we’ll see who is fit and available for tomorrow [Thursday].”
And is Raphael Varane still on course with his rehabilitation?
“Yeah, Rapha’s rehab is going really well. He’s out on the grass but it won’t be any time this week, by any stretch, it’ll be a little bit further than that, if not even longer. He’s on course, which is good.”
How has training been for you? It’s been a quick turnaround…
“It has been a quick turnaround but it’s kind of what you get used to. If you get four days in between games, it feels like a lifetime as normally it’s two or three at most. That’s the routine the players are used to. Training has been good, the boys have been at it and are looking forward to the game.”
David De Gea leading the race to win our Player of the Month – do you think he’s a worthy winner of the award and what have you made of his performances of late?
“Yeah, David has done what he does. I thought the first save, from [Callum] Hudson-Odoi, kind of epitomising how important he can be for us at a crucial time of the game, so early in the game. That is when you need your goalkeeper to step up and that almost gave us a platform to take on for the rest of the game. He’s been making many of those saves over the years, David, and I’m sure he’ll make plenty more.”
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