Carrick makes Europa promise

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Michael Carrick is bracing himself for a formidable challenge posed by Athletic Bilbao in tonight's Europa League last-16 first leg encounter, but is determined that Manchester United's progress is maintained in the competition this year.

The 30-year-old midfielder insists there will be no problem motivating the players ahead of Thursday's Old Trafford tie, amid allegations that the Red Devils are focused only on retaining their Premier League crown, and that Europe's second-tier competition is not high on the club's agenda.

"Bilbao will have to be respected," Carrick told "It is still a European competition. It is one we are desperate to win.

"We have never really been part of it. Who knows when the chance to win it will come round again? We want to grasp it. As players and, as a club, we are determined to go far.

"It doesn't take much motivation from the players' point of view. It's a competition we want to win. I want to win it. I've never played in this competition. We are still desperate to go as far as we would do in the Champions League."

Sir Alex Ferguson's charges will be looking to make the most of their home advantage and take a lead into the second leg at the San Mames Stadium next week - an arena that is renowned for its intimidating atmosphere.

Carrick is under no illusions about the threat that the Spanish side - who currently occupy fifth place in La Liga - will possess in both legs home and away.

"Bilbao is a tough place to go," he added. "We need to perform well at home to give us a chance in the away leg. Most of the time in recent years we've tended to play the away leg first. That will be something different for us.

"It won't change our approach hugely but we know how tough it will be over there. It is renowned to be a very hostile environment. They have fanatical fans but it's something we're looking forward to.

"I'm not sure why our home form in Europe has not been so good. It's a tough one. We haven't quite performed on the night for whatever reason. The Ajax game was a bit of a disappointment but we got through. We can put that behind us and look forward."

Europa League
Michael Carrick
Manchester United
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