Carrick reveals phone call to Solskjaer
Michael Carrick has described how difficult it has been for him to take over the reins from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but says he is 'game mode' now as Manchester United take on Villarreal in the Champions League.
Our former midfielder revealed he called his friend before taking up the caretaker position and preparing the side for the Group F encounter, knowing the Reds need a positive result to keep on course for the knockout stages of the competition.
In a chat with MUTV's Mark Sullivan at Carrington, Carrick spoke passionately about Ole and the need to focus on the job in hand, with the Spanish side set to provide formidable opposition on their home patch...
We appreciate it's a difficult time for you but what are your thoughts on Ole leaving the club?
"Yeah, it's been a bit of a rollercoaster 24 hours, or 48 hours if you include the game in that. Yeah, initial sadness really yesterday morning - disappointment and frustration seeing someone obviously I care about, and have worked closely with for so long really, I think we both understand, we all understand it's a result-driven business and that dictates the path that you go on. Nevertheless, when it happens like that, it's tough to see. I want to say a big massive thanks to Ole because I've learned loads off him, an awful lot off him. The way he carries himself, how loyal he is to everyone, especially the staff and the players and the club, how humble he is as a man. I think you don't always get what you deserve in life and this is a classic case of that because everything he did was for the club, for the players, for the staff and to protect everyone in every way he could. I think you see the outpouring of messages and emotion from everyone just shows what he means to everyone. Certainly, speaking on behalf of the staff, for sure, the trust that he had in us and the relationship we had, I could never thank him enough. Certainly, I'll never forget what he's done for me and what I've learned from him. I think, honestly, the biggest thing was how he handled the whole thing yesterday. He stood with his head held high and spoke to the players, wished them all the best and actually will probably still be the biggest supporter in wishing them to do well, which doesn't happen very often in that situation. I think everyone respects that, the players certainly do, we do as staff, and all the fans around the world and as a club would all echo that."
Our interview was an emotional one with Ole and he got most emotional when mentioning you in particular, he welled up, so that shows the strength of your relationship. Does that probably make you being caretaker manager even more of a difficult job, although I'm sure you'll do your utmost to succeed in it?
"Yeah, the first thing I did, the first thing that crossed my mind when I realised kind of how the situation was developing, I spoke to Ed [Woodward] and went straight to Ole and said look, it wasn't easy to just think right, let's move on, I'll take this role and everything will be alright. My first thought was speaking to Ole about it and he was fully supportive, as you'd expect, as he is, but it wasn't something I just took for granted because, in some ways, it didn't feel quite right - me being here and not having him around. But, of course, as I said before, football is a business and as a club, it's the way it is. You've got to move on quickly. I spoke to Ole late last night [Sunday] anyway but in between that, I had to flip my focus and concentration into a new role and almost had to put my emotions aside the best that I could. Of course, it wasn't easy but, at the same point, there was a job to do. I have a responsibility to the club, for the players, to pull everything together and prepare the team for a big game on Tuesday night. I did manage to speak to Ole again late last night, which was nice, and obviously we're friends and that will never change. I'll catch up with him some time soon again when we get back."
On the pitch, you took the responsibility of the jersey and wore it with pride every time you played, but how different will it be being sat in the dugout as caretaker manager in the Champions League?
"It's a huge challenge and obviously one that I relish, to be honest. I'm looking forward to it. The initial emotion of why I'm here kind of wears off and now I'm in game mode, you know, and I'm looking forward to the game. Seeing the boys this morning and being around the lads, we're doing everything we can to go over there and be positive, looking forward to the game. For me personally, and I don't like talking about me personally to be honest, as it's about the team. It's a lot more important for the club than for me but, for sure, the position I am in is a huge privilege, an honour and a huge responsibility. I'm thankful that has been placed on me and will do the very best I can, as I always have since I stepped through the door."
If we win, we're through but a draw also puts in a strong position so what is your approach going to be?
"It's like every game we go into. Whatever the recent form, whatever is happening around it, you've got to go into the game to try to win the game. You've got to understand the situation, of course, and got to manage the game right. Away games in Europe always have a slightly different feel to them. You've got to approach them in maybe a slightly different way to a Premier League game. But, of course, the aim is to go there and win the game. How we do that, obviously we'll wait and see, but that's definitely the aim and we're giving it our best to do that."
As a player, you were used to these penultimate group games and needing a result so will that experience help the players?
"Yeah, hopefully I can help them and I can give them that but there's an awful lot of experience in the room player-wise and we'll all be leaning on each other and helping each other. These are the games you want to be involved in, these are the games, whatever the circumstances, playing in the Champions League with it all on the line, really testing yourself when it matters and seeing what you've got. I fully believe in the group of players, I think they've shown it before and will show it again. I'm really looking forward to the game.
It's a third meeting with Villarreal in the last six or seven months so do you rate their team and what do you make of them?
"A very good team. A very good team, that's showed in the games that we've played them, two really close games. In the [Europa League] final, we just didn't have that cutting edge. I thought we played pretty well for a lot of it, without probably having that edge to create enough chances. They're a good team, well organised, who can keep hold of the ball with nice connections throughout the pitch. They're really well organised and not easy to play against but that's proved when we managed to get a good result at home. It'll be a tough game over there, it's a big game for them as well as us. It's all on the line, which is how we like it, we want to be playing in this, while you play here, because you want to play in the big games in Europe and that is certainly what we've got."