England may use Michael Carrick in defence in San Marino qualifier

Roy Hodgson is considering using Michael Carrick as a centre-back during England's World Cup qualifier against San Marino.

Carrick has featured in the position for Manchester United on an auxiliary basis this season when Sir Alex Ferguson has been short of defensive cover. Although Carrick is expected to start in his usual midfield berth on Friday at the Serravalle Stadium, Hodgson may move him back into central defence if San Marino prove difficult to break down.

The thinking is that the manager may wish to utilise Carrick's range of short and long passing while freeing up a position further upfield if San Marino defend deep inside their half for long periods.

Hodgson may start Manchester City's Joleon Lescott alongside Chris Smalling of Manchester United at centre-back against San Marino. Due to a series of injuries and withdrawals, the manager has to weigh up who to play with Tuesday's more difficult game against Montenegro in mind.

Lescott was booked in September playing against Ukraine so, if chosen, he will have to be careful, as another yellow card would rule him out of the match in Podgorica.

Phil Jones's recovery from strained ankle ligaments made him unavailable for selection, while Michael Dawson, with a hamstring problem, and Gary Cahill, who has a knee injury, had to drop out of the squad.

Newcastle United's Steven Taylor has been drafted in. Rio Ferdinand is a fourth central defender who Hodgson cannot call on after he decided to pull out due to concerns over his fitness programme being compromised.

Despite Lescott being effectively fourth choice at City this season, his club team-mate James Milner has no concerns if he is selected. "It does not change his attitude. He is ready and raring to go. Whenever he has played for us he has been brilliant. Joleon is a top professional – I spend a lot of time with him," the midfielder said. "He prepares every single day for training really well, his strength work, conditioning."

Having been a regular in the City sides that won the FA Cup in 2011 and last season's championship, Lescott has started only 11 league games this term.

"That is a question for the manager but we are blessed to have a strong squad at City," said Milner. "When I have seen him [Lescott] play, he has been strong – outstanding."

He has more than enough experience. He has played a number of times for England so it will be fine. He will come in and if the manager selects him he will do a fantastic job.

"We are blessed to have a lot of players in the centre-half position although it is disappointing not to have Rio in this trip. I think the players we have are more than capable of doing a job."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Jamie Jackson, for The Guardian on Tuesday 19th March 2013 23.17 Europe/London

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