Michael Carrick feels Manchester United are back where they belong
The Red Devils won the Champions League twice under Sir Alex Ferguson but have fallen behind Europe’s top clubs since his retirement.
Michael Carrick wants Manchester United to establish themselves as a Champions League force once more as Old Trafford prepares to host a first knockout game in four years.
After the Red Devils secured a nervy 0-0 draw in Spain last month, Sevilla arrive on Tuesday evening for the return leg of an evenly-poised last-16 clash.
United last hosted a Champions League knockout game in 2014 and skipper Carrick says it is high time they competed again for European football’s top trophy.
“For so long, it was kind of a given,” said Carrick, the last remaining member of the victorious 2008 side.
“We didn’t take it for granted, but it was just what we did for so, so many years.
“When you go without that a little bit, it kind of hurts and you miss it.
“You know, fortunately this year we’re back there, back in the knockout stages where it really counts.
“You get that extra spicy feeling, there’s that little bit extra to it and we want to be playing these games. The biggest games at this time of the season.
“Not looking past tomorrow night, but for seasons ahead now I think as a squad we need to develop, we need to be constantly in this position and expect it of ourselves and keep them standards high.”
Carrick knows better than anyone in the squad about the high standards demanded at Old Trafford.
The 36-year-old is the longest-serving player at the club, having joined from Tottenham in 2006 and gone on to win the Champions League and five Premier League titles, among many other trophies.
Carrick will be hoping to add to his medal-laden CV before the end of the season – a campaign the veteran confirmed will be his last as a player before taking up manager Jose Mourinho’s offer to join the coaching staff.
“There comes a time when as much as you like it or don’t like it, your body tells you it’s time to stop playing football,” Carrick said.
“So that’s pretty much where I’m at, which is fine. It’s something you’ve got to accept so that’s where I am at.
“It’s kind of been sorted out (for a coaching role). We’re still talking about it, to be honest, so there’s nothing to totally confirm as yet.
“But, yeah, it’s looking likely.”
Carrick is unlikely to be in the starting line-up on Tuesday, while there are also big questions over Paul Pogba’s availability.
The 24-year-old midfielder – who surprisingly started the goalless first leg on the bench in Spain – was injured on the eve of the Liverpool clash and was conspicuous by his absence from the section of training open to the media on Monday.
United boss Mourinho offered no insight into Pogba’s injury, just that the club-record signing could be involved against Sevilla.
“(Pogba) did (train) after you left,” Mourinho said.
“I don’t know (if he can play), we don’t know yet, but he trained a little bit after you left.”
Mourinho confirmed that Anthony Martial is back in contention after an injury of his own, and that Daley Blind, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones remain absent.