Michael Carrick feared for his Manchester United future after Louis van Gaal failed to open contract talks with him until March, a source has told The Sun.
The midfielder has been widely regarded as the most important outfield player for the Red Devils this season and the statistics certainly back up that claim.
Manchester United's win record with Carrick is an impressive 72 per cent this season but that figure drops below 50 per cent whenever he has been absent.
The same report claims Van Gaal made Carrick stand up in a recent team meeting and introduced him to the rest of the squad as his "best signing".
It seems ludicrous, then, that the 33-year-old was preparing to leave Old Trafford just two months and was considering offers from a number of clubs.
His doubt was born out of Manchester United's failure to renew his contract, which was set to expire in the summer before he agreed a one-year extension in March.
Carrick was expecting to enter talks over that extension in December but was left in limbo when the club failed to open negotiations.
With Manchester United linked to several deep-lying midfielders like Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin Strootman, it was only natural for Carrick to think his services would not be required beyond this season.
Preparing to leave
It left Carrick with no choice but to start planning for life away from Old Trafford, as the source revealed.
They said: “He was going to head back to Newcastle and look at his options. He knew Van Gaal liked him but he thought with all the new signings he was maybe being thought of as too old.
“Now he’s happier than he has ever been at the club.”
His importance to Manchester United can not be understated. Having missed the first 12 weeks of the season, his return coincided with a massive upturn in form.
Carrick's first game of the season came in a narrow 1-0 defeat to Manchester City, but the Red Devils went on to win seven of their next eight games.
Having picked up a calf strain and missing six weeks, his return coincided with the start of a six-game winning streak.
Unfortunately, he picked up another calf injury in a victory over City and United went on to lose their next three games against Chelsea, Everton and West Brom.
Having agreed a new contract, Manchester United will be hoping Carrick can stay fit for the entire Premier League campaign next season. If he does, surely they will be challenging for Chelsea's title.
How important is Michael Carrick to Manchester United's title chances?
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