Retiring Carrick out to put hold on Euro swansong
Listening to Michael Carrick talk yesterday with all the assuredness, balance and intelligence he has brought to Manchester United's midfield over the past 12 years, it is easy to understand why Jose Mourinho is so keen to add the 36-year-old to his coaching staff in the summer.
Carrick admitted that was as good as agreed after confirming he will retire at the end of the season, and while the Old Trafford dressing room will lose its most sensible voice, not to mention a wealth of experience and medals, it must be reassuring for every player - from Scott McTominay to Alexis Sanchez - to know he will still be there to lean on when required.
Tonight at Old Trafford could be the final time Carrick hears the Champions League anthem as a player. A goalless first leg against Sevilla last month has left "everything open" in this round-of-16 tie and United "without any advantage at all", according to Mourinho.
But the passage of time has only increased Carrick's appetite for success and, while he admits his mother, Lynn, got rather tearful when he faced his boyhood club Newcastle United last month, knowing the end was near, he is only looking forward, not back.
"No, not really, to be honest," Carrick said when asked if he had been getting emotional of late. "It is what it is. You've got to be quite comfortable with the situation.
"I think when I played at Newcastle the other week it was probably a bit more emotional for my parents, seeing my mum after the game, but it's not something I've thought of. I'm just thinking about enjoying the rest of the season and playing as much as I can. I hope this is not the last one in the Champions League by a long stretch.
"For so long, it was kind of a given (reaching the Champions League quarter-finals) - not taken for granted, but it was just what we did and for so many years. When you go without that, it kind of hurts. You miss it.
"But we are back where it really counts and you get that extra spicy feeling. You want to be playing in these games."
With Ander Herrera injured and whether Paul Pogba will feature this evening uncertain - the Frenchman played only a bit-part role in training yesterday, having not fully recovered from the injury that kept him out of Saturday's 2-1 win over Liverpool - Carrick could play some part against Sevilla.
His appearances this season have been limited, largely owing to a minor operation he underwent in September to correct an irregular heart rhythm that, for a while after, left him wondering if he should retire sooner and "whether it was worth it or not".
In his and others' absence, Scott McTominay has emerged unexpectedly to become a regular starter and Carrick believes the 21-year-old midfielder is a "shining example" to the Baby Bentley brigade of young footballers who believe they have made it before they have achieved anything.
"It is quite refreshing to look at Scott and see how he deals with it," Carrick said. "He comes in, he is always doing extra training, he's desperate to do well and he's always looking for those little things to improve on.
"All the glitz and the glamour that can surround young players these days, he doesn't seem too interested in that, which is fantastic, especially at this stage of his career. It is about making a career.
"You've got to earn it, you've got to establish yourself and he's done great so far."
McTominay is not the only player finding his feet at Old Trafford.
Sanchez has had a challenging start at United following his move from Arsenal in January, but Carrick has no doubts the Chilean will be a hit.
"He just loves the game," said Carrick. "Every day in training he is the first one out with the ball at his feet, which is great to see. He is desperate to do well. We know exactly what he brings and he will have a great time here.
"I said when he first signed, he is a Man United player. He suits the way we play, he has got that excitement, he always looks forward, he is dynamic.
"You can judge him in the first few games or whatever, but I think over time he will be terrific. I have no doubts about it." (© Daily Telegraph, London)