Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has praised Michael Carrick’s impact during the club’s on-going injury crisis, stressing how important the midfielder’s versatility has been to his side in recent weeks.
Carrick, 33, missed the first nine Premier League games of the campaign due to ankle ligament damage suffered during pre-season, but has since been an ever-present in the line-up after coming off the bench in the 43rd-minute against Manchester City last month to fill in at centre-back following Chris Smalling’s red card.
The former Tottenham Hotspur man was also forced to drop into defence for the final 51 minutes of Monday night’s 2-1 win at Southampton after Smalling was injured and an error-prone Paddy McNair was taken off, and Van Gaal believes that shows how crucial he is to the team.
“I don’t want to pick one player out of it, but I think Michael Carrick can play at six [central midfield] and three [centre-back], and that is very important,” he said at his press conference ahead of Sunday lunchtime’s Premier League clash against Liverpool at Old Trafford.
“Three is not the same number you use in England for positions, but I think it’s very important that I can play him the midfield and in defence, especially in these times when we have a list of defenders injured.
“It was good that he came back,” he continued. “Because of him we have more balance in the team
“Now I have only four injuries so that’s better than ever I believe. Only [Luke] Shaw, [Chris] Smalling, [Angel] Di Maria and [Daley] Blind.”
Carrick will likely line-up in midfield against Liverpool this weekend with Johnny Evans set to return to the starting XI to partner Marcos Rojo at centre-back, while Phil Jones is also in the squad for the first time since October after recovering from a shin problem.
United are on a run of five successive wins at present, sitting third in the table with 28 points from their 15 games, and a win over their rivals would open up a 10 point gap between the two sides.