Wednesday 14 November 2018

Carrick shows class in a fitting final act on field

Manchester United 1 Watford 0

Carrick: 464 appearances. Getty Images
Carrick: 464 appearances. Getty Images

James Ducker

It was a fitting finale to a glittering Manchester United career and a reminder of the challenge Jose Mourinho faces trying to find a replacement midfielder of comparable class and character.

Old Trafford has witnessed Michael Carrick fashion many a goal with a measured pass and there was a particular satisfaction felt inside the ground as the veteran midfielder rolled back the years with one majestic swipe of that right boot to produce a subdued game's stand-out moment on his 464th and final appearance for the club.

Watford's Craig Cathcart and Manchester United's Alexis Sanchez battle for the ball. Photo: PA
Watford's Craig Cathcart and Manchester United's Alexis Sanchez battle for the ball. Photo: PA

Juan Mata was the grateful recipient of the ball and squared for Marcus Rashford to side-foot into an empty net.

Victory over Watford moved United up to 81 points, 12 more than last season, but Manchester City's win at Southampton saw the champions chalk up 100 points and, in doing so, supplant United as the club with the biggest title-winning margin in Premier League history.

City finish an eye-watering 19 points ahead of second-placed United, eclipsing the 18-point winning margin Alex Ferguson's United side held over Arsenal in 1999-2000.

The day, though, was about Carrick. He entered the pitch to a guard of honour, a touching tribute from his team-mates and a surprise to the 36-year-old, who was accompanied by his children, Louise and Jacey, both of whom were wearing United shirts marked "Daddy 16".

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Reuters
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Reuters

He left in the 85th minute to a standing ovation from the Old Trafford faithful, saddened to lose such a great servant but reassured that he will still be around to impart his wisdom as a member of Mourinho's coaching staff.

With Rui Faria announcing he will leave United after the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday, Mourinho said he would operate without an assistant manager next season and instead restructure his existing staff to include Carrick.

Mourinho said Carrick will be asked for his input over who should replace him in midfield. Whoever they pick will have big shoes to fill.

"I will organise my coaching staff in a way where the assistant manager figure doesn't exist," Mourinho said. "I am going to have assistant coaches, I am going to have fitness coaches and a structure where they have specialists in different areas connected to the performance analysts."

Manchester United's Ashley Young is shown a yellow card by referee Lee Mason. Photo: Reuters
Manchester United's Ashley Young is shown a yellow card by referee Lee Mason. Photo: Reuters

The pass for the goal was a beauty. Mata knew when Carrick picked up the ball 10 yards inside his own half that the midfielder would find him if he timed his run correctly.

So the Spaniard set off, beating the offside trap and watched as a 40-yard pass dropped on to his left foot. Mata killed the ball with one touch, and as Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes advanced, he passed across to Rashford who had a simple finish. And that was about as good as it got.

Watford briefly threatened when Daryl Janmaat cut inside and plonked a fine cross on the head of Richarlison but Sergio Romero tipped the forward's header away.

© Daily Telegraph, London

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford scores his side's first goal. Photo: Reuters
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford scores his side's first goal. Photo: Reuters

Telegraph.co.uk

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport