Carrick: England win would boost United
While the eyes, hearts and minds of millions of fans have been occupied by international football again this week, life at club level has quietly resumed with several days of pre-season training for Manchester United at Carrington.
Carrick's current work on the training ground, and past experience as an England midfielder, made him the perfect man to speak to as we talked both club and country ahead of two finals this weekend - for Fred in Brazil on Saturday night and Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw at Wembley on Sunday...
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The Reds have really put in a shift during week one of pre-season...
"It's great to be back. It's different on the sidelines, shouting at them to run faster - I used to be the one running! Ah, it's not like that really, but yeah it's nice to be back. There's always a freshness about the first week back, we've got a lot of the younger players in and around the group this week and it's always nice to spend time with them, have a look at them and give them some help where we can. Yeah, there's always a real nice freshness about that first week back in pre-season and building for the weeks ahead."
With some players still away, how important is it for the young players who could make a real mark this week? Is it a big opportunity for them?
"It is, yeah. They're trying to build their careers, create a pathway for themselves, and we say it all the time to them: 'Don't waste a day, don't waste a training session', because you just never know where that's going to take you. Any impression, especially when the manager and the coaches are watching, is so, so important. It's a great opportunity - obviously they're not going to be judged over one training session - but it's something that can trigger something that goes onto something bigger, so hopefully they come in and enjoy it. Most of them have been in and around the group already and we know them well but yeah, I think if you ask any seasoned professional, the pre-season at some point with the first team when they were a younger player was a kind of instigator for their career. Hopefully that'll be the case for the boys involved with us over the next few weeks."
"Massively different. Last year, you couldn't really call it a pre-season, it was kind of just taking off from where we'd left off before. This one is different. Us as coaches and the staff have had a good break. It was a challenging season last season, just for the fact that the games came so thick and fast. Obviously we finished with the slight disappointment of the [Europa League] final but all in all it was a good season for us so naturally you need to refresh, regroup, think a little bit and come again. This is the time, this is the fresh pre-season, a good five or six weeks until the first game. Yeah of course we'd love everyone back on the first day and have everyone together and there's a challenge in that - the success of the national team obviously gives us a little bit more of a challenge but that's how it is - but it's a good pre-season, there are some good games for us and we're looking forward to it."
What would you say about how England have done over the last few weeks?
"I think they've done tremendously. For being in the position that they're in now, I'm so pleased for them. Of course there's another step to go and I don't want to get too carried away and I'm sure they're not getting too carried away, but the experiences that they've had over the last 10 days or so will be ones that they remember forever. From a personal, selfish point of view from the club, to see them doing well, experiencing big games, hopefully winning something like that, that can rub off on us, bring those experiences back to share with the group and hopefully it'll bring some success for us as well. So it's two-fold really, I'm pleased for them as individuals and pleased for us because we'll have them back in good form for the start of the season."
You know what it's like to play for your country at a major tournament. How do you think they're handling it?
"They're in the final so they've handled it great. Being at Wembley obviously gives a different challenge, there are positives and there are slight negatives in the fact there are expectations but, to be honest, it's not really negative, it's what you thrive on, it's where you want to be as a player. It's the stuff of dreams for an England player to be involved in a home semi-final and home final on the back of a pandemic when everyone's been shut off from each other. To see the atmosphere over the last couple of games at Wembley has been incredible. I'm sure Sunday will be even greater than that. I just hope the lads and the team can finish the job off."
What would your message to the lads be?
"To be honest, I don't think there's loads to say. I think they're in a good place [so it's] pretty much 'same as'. Yes, of course, it's a one-off game in terms of finally getting your hands on the trophy but really it's still make or break just like the last-16 was, just like the semi-final was, and they handled that pretty well so I don't think they need much of a message from me apart from do the same, carry on the same, be positive, enjoy the build-up, but enjoy the game for what it is and don't play it for the occasion. I've seen a few messages on that, about how actually everyone else enjoys it but as a player you've got such a role to play and a responsibility, you have to go out there and perform and you don't get caught up in what the rest of the country is doing. You have more fun at times as a fan but I think the boys will enjoy it finally if they win on Sunday night."
Will you be watching?
"Yeah, I'll watch it. The kids will be watching it. We had the England tops on the other night watching which was nice for them. I managed to stay away from the early parts of the tournament because I needed a break from football but as it's building and building, it's great to see, and I wish the boys well on Sunday."
Fred's in the Copa America final and it says a lot about him that he's in the Brazil team?
"It's terrific for Fred, full credit to him, he's worked ever so hard. He's such a great personality and character. He's had to work hard here to establish himself. It's a huge game obviously in that part of the world and hopefully he can do what he's been doing, win a trophy as well and we can have four boys coming back with a spring in their step ready to hit the season hard."
HOW TO WATCH UNITED'S PRE-SEASON GAMES
Fans can now buy tickets for the home fixtures against Brentford on 28 July and Everton on 7 August. All of the matches, including Derby County away on 18 July and QPR away on 24 July, will be shown live on MUTV.