Why Manchester United have to get Carrick fit for Chelsea game

Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick limped out of the 4-2 win over Manchester City at the weekend in the 87th minute.

Michael Carrick came off early at Old Trafford despite Louis van Gaal having used his three substitutes, and the Manchester Evening News are reporting that the club are desperate for the England man to be fit in time for this weekend's visit to league leaders Chelsea

United have only lost one game this season when Carrick has been playing his favoured midfield role, the 1-0 home loss to Southampton, and importantly, he has been a key figure in the last four league games.

Those matches have seen vital wins over three of their nearest rivals in Tottenham, Liverpool and rivals Manchester City, while Carrick also enjoyed the international break where he demonstrated he could be just as important for England.

Old Trafford teammate even labelled Carrick 'the best player on the pitch by a mile' after England's 1-1 draw with Italy last month.

Louis van Gaal's ability to find a winning midfield combination of Carrick, Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini relied on the veteran's discipline and experience to make the entire side tick, and it was no surprise that his return coincided with the best form of the season for both Herrera and Fellaini.

If Carrick is out, it is likely one of those two will drop into a deeper position, and that will lead to all kinds of positional changes, away from what has worked so well for Van Gaal in recent weeks.

The reality of the former Spurs midfielder is that it is likely he will at the very least be able to maintain the level of influence he has displayed this season for several years yet.

Given that his game has always been about positioning and reading of the game, rather than a driving and energetic approach often associated with defensive midfielders, the 33-year-old should not be hampered by the lack of pace that often disrupts a player's career in his mid-30s.

Having missed the 1-1 draw against Chelsea earlier in the summer, Carrick's presence will be a big part of any hopes Van Gaal has of getting a positive result at Stamford Bridge.

And with United 8 points behind the Blues, who must also face Arsenal before the end of the season, only a win for the Manchester side will really open up the title race to those behind Jose Mourinho's men.

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