Mourinho must trust Carrick like he does Ibrahimovic

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The midfielder has not been given the chance to emulate his fellow 35-year-old and the return to training of Bastian Schweinsteiger can hardly spell good news for him either.

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger have 271 international caps, 70 winners’ medals and 48 years of first-team football between them. But the experience of life as a Manchester United veteran is markedly different from one man to the next and, while one has received the unstinting support of his manager and another has this week seen his much-publicised exile ended, the third appears to have been forgotten altogether by Jose Mourinho.

The outpouring of joy on social media at the sight of Schweinsteiger training with the United first team on Monday is to some extent understandable.

But while those who want to see the return of a World Cup winner who came in 15 months ago under much pomp and circumstance are busy rejoicing, how should Carrick feel about the promotion of an injury-prone washout into a squad for which he has played only 12 minutes of league football this season? If even Schweinsteiger is getting a look-in now, when will his time come?

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The misuse of the 35-year-old is perhaps even more head-scratching than the ostracism experienced by the German. At least Mourinho acknowledged that he didn’t want Schweinsteiger and stated in no uncertain terms what the future was likely to hold for him. With Carrick, he offered hope by immediately tying him down to a new one-year deal but has since given him only a brief appearance late in a comfortable 4-1 win outside of three cup competitions which he has little interest in winning.

“He is phenomenal but I have to manage him,” Mourinho said of Carrick before Saturday’s 0-0 league draw with Burnley. “I cannot expect from him what I expect from Rashford and Herrera.

“When he’s on the pitch, he gives us important things: stability in our game, mental freedom to the other guys. He’s not just a player, he is someone who has a big understanding of the game and it’s a pity you sometimes cannot stop the clock.

“Michael is such an important player and very difficult to replace.”

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So why exactly is he trying to replace him in a United side which desperately needs somebody of his characteristics? It goes without saying that the midfielder cannot play every week but even one week would be nice, especially in a team which is still not playing to the benefit of world-record signing Paul Pogba. And all the while a player of Carrick’s age and stature appears to be a non-negotiable totem-pole no matter his age, condition, form or impact.

Is Carrick actually so replaceable that even the previous persona non grata that is Schweinsteiger could be promoted back into the first-team reckoning ahead of the former England midfielder? And can Ibrahimovic so categorically halt the same clock which Mourinho has lamented when speaking of Carrick?

The big Swede has not scored a goal in six league games and whatever plans Mourinho has had for giving him the appropriate support in attack have clearly not worked. There is no energy around Ibrahimovic, there is nobody bursting beyond him unless he is dropping far deeper than he really should be.

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And that is partly because of the extra shift being put in by the attacking midfield to compensate for the lack of a Carrick at the heart of the team. While Ander Herrera has done a decent job in recent weeks, there is still an amount of control clearly missing from the United side. Who is dictating the tempo? Who is taking the weight off the shoulders of those around him, including an £89.5 million man struggling to find his feet? The answer to both is nobody, but the answer to both should be Carrick.

“Michael is such an important player and very difficult to replace.”

You’re not wrong, Jose. So maybe now is not the time to be forcing him to the periphery when he still has plenty to offer.

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