Manchester United appear set for a huge boost to their inconsistent midfield, with reports from the Daily Mail suggesting that Michael Carrick has commenced ball work ahead of a potential return to training and could make a first-team return on Boxing Day.
England international Carrick last featured for the reigning Premier League champions during their 1-0 victory over leaders Arsenal in November but has missed the subsequent period after sustaining a nasty achilles injury that required surgery to correct.
Carrick's absence has been keenly felt at Old Trafford, with the 32-year-old regarded by many as Manchester United's most talented and indeed most crucial central midfield presence.
Although Sunday's emphatic 3-0 victory over Aston Villa - which came courtesy of a brace from Danny Welbeck and a rare strike from Tom Cleverley - provided a brief moment of respite for beleaguered boss David Moyes, the Scot has been under increasing pressure of late following a series of unconvincing displays that included consecutive 1-0 defeats to Everton and Newcastle at Old Trafford.
Carrick's uncanny ability to retain possession and set-up attacks with his impressive vision and range of passing is surely likely to improve the Manchester United side, with Moyes reportedly optimistic that one of his most-cherished assets could be fit in time to play some part in the club's trip to Hull City and the KC Stadium on Boxing Day.
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