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Carrick's back to basics

MICHAEL Carrick's days as an emergency central defender may be coming to an end.

The Manchester United star was once again pressed into service at the back in Turkey on Tuesday night when Alex Ferguson opted to leave Rio Ferdinand and Chris Smalling out of the Champions League defeat to Galatasaray.

From a United perspective, the game was notable for Phil Jones' first appearance of the season.

The 20-year-old did well alongside Carrick in the cauldron of the Turk Telecom Arena, and with Jonny Evans and skipper Nemanja Vidic also edging their way back from a groin problem and knee surgery respectively, Carrick might get a permanent return to the midfield role he prefers.

"I have played there three or four times this season," said Carrick.

"If there are injuries or whatever, part of playing for this club is to do what the manager wants.

"I don't have a problem with it. Ideally, I would like to play midfield because that is my position but if I've got to play at the back, then so be it."

After all, successive defeats at Norwich and Galatasaray have taken the gloss off what had been an impressive period for the Red Devils, and seen them lose their place at the Premier League summit.

Not since 2001 have Alex Ferguson's men lost three successive games, and with victory required to put pressure on Chelsea and Manchester City, who meet in Rafael Benitez's managerial debut for the Blues on Sunday, there can be no sympathy for a club, like West Ham 10 years ago, who are supposed to be too good to go down.

With the likes of Carrick, Joe Cole and Jermain Defoe, the Hammers boasted some of the country's best young players.

Even after a poor start, it seemed inconceivable they would eventually lose their Premier League lives.

But it happened, with a record points tally of 42.

"It is a surprise but this is a hard league and sometimes when you buy players but a couple of results don't go for you early in the season, it becomes harder to win," said Carrick.

"I've been there myself with West Ham. I know how difficult it can be.

"We had a good squad of players but for whatever reason, it just didn't work for us that season. Hopefully Mark Hughes can turn it round, although not starting tomorrow."