Manchester United are in the process of arranging a behind closed doors friendly for later this week in a bid to help midfielder Michael Carrick step up his recovery from injury. Red Devils’ coaches hope the match will allow the 33-year-old to make his first competitive appearance of the season against West Brom next Monday.
This is according to the Daily Mail, who report that Carrick - who has been out since July with damaged ankle ligaments - has been working with the first team during their weights and exercise training sessions. If he comes through this week’s friendly unscathed, Louis van Gaal could name Carrick amongst his substitutes for the visit to the Hawthorns next week.
Van Gaal rates Carrick highly
Carrick is highly regarded by Van Gaal, who even considered handing the England international the captains’ armband at Old Trafford before eventually giving it to Wayne Rooney. The midfielder, despite his advancing years, remains one of the Premier League’s best passers and could make a notable difference for the Red Devils when he makes his return from injury.
With Ander Herrera out of action with a fractured rib - the £29 million Spaniard should return to action in time for United’s Premier League clash against Chelsea on Saturday - Carrick could even start against the Baggies, depending on his fitness levels and how he performs in this week’s friendly.
Van Gaal started Antonio Valencia in an unfamiliar central role against Everton before the international break, but the veteran Dutch coach will be reluctant to use the same tactics, even though the Ecuador international performed reasonably well against the Toffees in that role.
Carrick faces competition from new signings
Marouane Fellaini and Darren Fletcher will also be in contention to start alongside Angel di Maria, and just in front of holding midfielder Daley Blind, against West Brom next week. But Carrick retains possession better than both of his teammates. The big question is over his fitness; it’s hard to imagine he’ll be capable of playing any longer than an hour on the night.
Carrick, for the first time in his Manchester United career, faces real competition for his central midfield position following the arrivals of Herrera, Blind and Di Maria. The former Tottenham star was disappointing last season, under the management of David Moyes, and will be keen to prove that he remains capable of playing week-in, week-out for the 20-time English champions.
His current contract expires at the end of the season, but there is talk that Van Gaal plans to offer the Manchester United star a one-year extension on his £80,000-a-week deal.