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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 17 July 2018

Michael Carrick gets deserved send-off as Manchester United sign off Premier League season with win over Watford

Midfielder was chorused by the Old Trafford crowd and left the pitch to a standing ovation after his final league appearance for United

Michael Carrick waves to the crowd as he is substituted during Manchester United's final game of the Premier League season. Darren Staples / Reuters
Michael Carrick waves to the crowd as he is substituted during Manchester United's final game of the Premier League season. Darren Staples / Reuters

Manchester United’s 1-0 win against Watford means Jose Mourinho’s side finish the Premier League season in second with 81 points - more than United achieved in the 1998/99 treble winning season.

It is the highest league position since Alex Ferguson stepped down five years ago and fans showed their affection for their former manager by singing how much they loved him on a sunny Mancunian afternoon.

They sang too for Michael Carrick, who is calling time on a fine professional career after 676 games in club football, 463 of them with United.

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Carrick is the last player at United who was at the club when they won the Uefa Champions League a decade ago, but he is staying to help out as a coach and, given that Mourinho’s assistant Rui Faria is leaving after 17 years by his side, Carrick is likely to play an increasing role.

A suitable bridge between players and the United manager is needed since that relationship is too strained too often. Carrick is respected by United’s players, staff, manager and the club’s hierarchy who like the idea of a player being on the coaching staff.

For his final game, Carrick walked onto the field with his two children into a guard of honour formed by both teams.

United didn’t start well but while both teams had chances, Carrick played a wonderful pass forward to help give his side the lead after 33 minutes. Like a quarter back in American football picking out his man, Carrick’s ball forward to Juan Mata beat a line of Watford players. The Spaniard only had to side foot the ball to Marcus Rashford for an easy finish.

“It’s hard to believe it’s not Scholes,” chorused Old Trafford throughout, “it’s Carrick don’t you know.”

Watford, who had hopes of finishing 10th, had chances to equalise. Sergio Romero, standing in for United’s player of the year David de Gea, who received the Premier League’s Golden Glove before kick-off, saved in a De Gea-esque manner as he tipped an effort from Richarlison over after 44 minutes.

Ashley Young was the first United player to leave the field, cheered by United fans and booed by supporters of his former club Watford after an hour.

Carrick left the field to a well deserved standing ovation after 83 minutes, replaced by Paul Pogba, plus hugs from his teammates and manager.

Carrick wasn’t the only one saluted in song. Under a new Stretford End banner which read ‘Every single one of us loves Alex Ferguson’ fans sang and stood too for their former manager who continues to recover from a brain haemorrhage in hospital.

It was an easy-going, end-of-season, nothing game where Watford fans were vocal throughout and United fans became livelier as the game went on.

They have an FA Cup final against Chelsea to look forward to next Saturday, but while those 81 points and that second-place finish show a clear improvement on previous seasons, optimism has been dampened by the style of football in too many games, and by the vast gap between United and Manchester City.

Liverpool reaching a European Cup final, where they face Real Madrid on May 26, has hardly lifted the mood either – and the chants of "Viva Ronaldo" showed exactly who United fans want to win in Kiev.