x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Michael Carrick stays calm at Manchester United as Rooney denies rift

Sir Alex Ferguson's side take on rivals, who are undefeated on their home soil in the Premier League, for another FA Cup derby.

Michael Carrick, left, and Wayne Rooney know it would be nice to knock out Manchester City after a chaotic build-up.
Michael Carrick, left, and Wayne Rooney know it would be nice to knock out Manchester City after a chaotic build-up.

For possibly the first time in the Premier League era, Manchester United go into a derby match as the underdogs in their FA Cup tie today at the Etihad Stadium, but Michael Carrick is happy enough in that position.

Having moved swiftly to quell talk of an imminent Wayne Rooney departure from Old Trafford, United must now set their sights on Manchester City, those "noisy neighbours" who gave them a 6-1 hiding at Old Trafford in the league in October.

As the veteran of four successful championship campaigns and a Champions League triumph in 2008, Carrick, 30, knows that pre-match speculation and form means little in a derby match.

He has faith in his United teammates. "People can say what they like and fancy who they want," the midfielder said.

"We know what we can do. We know the players we have got in the dressing room.

"We just want to be back to top form and winning the game, regardless of the situation in the league really. Nothing has been handed out. No trophies have been awarded.

"We just want to hang in there and be there at the end. The cup is different. We need to produce that now.

"It would be nice to knock them out. More importantly it would be nice to progress."

That clarity of thought might be needed after a chaotic build-up.

Successive defeats to Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United were bad enough.

But on Friday night came a story in the British press of a schism between Rooney and Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, that was so bad, it might lead to the striker's exit during the present transfer window.

Reaction, from club and player, was swift.

United labelled the speculation "nonsense", while Rooney was unequivocal in a Twitter posting that followed immediately after the statement was released.

The England forward wrote: "My future is with Manchester United, and the club and I are totally committed.

"The manager and I have no issues, and anyone who says different doesn't know what they are talking about."

Still, the episode hardly helps preparations to face opponents who have won every Premier League game they have played on home soil this term, their latest victory coming on Tuesday, when they cruised past Liverpool.

In fact, the only time they failed to win at home during 2011 was when they drew with Fulham, a traditionally obdurate opponent, in February.

"You have to be impressed with Manchester City," Carrick said.

"They have some great attacking threats, and can hit you at any time and cause problems.

"At the same time, they are a good unit and they are solid and difficult to break down. That is the makings of a good team.

"They have had a little blip, as we did, over Christmas. But they got the big win against Liverpool, and they will be looking forward to the game as much as us."

5pm, Aljazeera Sport +3 & +5