Carry on defending Carrick
SIR Alex Ferguson is ready to ask Michael Carrick to carry on defending to solve one of the worst injury crises of his 23-year Manchester United reign. Carrick came on to replace Gary Neville at centre-back in yesterday's 4-0 victory against West Ham at Upton Park. Now Ferguson wants Carrick, who had never played in central defence before, to demonstrate his all-round talent again by partnering Nemanja Vidic on Tuesday night against Wolfsburg in the Champions League. Ferguson expects Vidic to have recovered from a bout of flu but will be without a long line of defenders including Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, John O'Shea, Neville, who pulled up with a groin injury yesterday, Rafael and Wes Brown who limped off in the dying minutes. If any team knows how to deal with a crisis it is United, whose back four at the end of Saturday's game comprised of three midfielders in Ryan Giggs, Carrick and Darren Fletcher, plus left-back Patrice Evra playing at centre half. And still West Ham never looked like scoring. Ferguson, who revealed he had wanted to play Carrick in midfield from the start but kept him on the bench as cover for his makeshift defence, said: "The injuries in defence are becoming a bit of a headache to us. Carrick stepped in and did very, very well. He's got the composure and the pace and it was a good performance in the second half. We used our experience." While the injury toll created the headlines, it was two old men in 35-year-old Paul Scholes and 36-year-old Giggs who deserved the plaudits after another example of United's resilience in the face of adversity. Giggs was a constant inspiration, proving again why he is a worthy contender for the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year prize later this month. It was Scholes, however, who had both managers marvelling at the consistent standard he has managed to maintain down the years with an opening 20-yard, left-footed screamer in first-half injury-time which was as sweet as it gets. Ironically, Scholes had hinted at his imminent retirement before this game, pondering whether his contribution was still what it was in the days when he was first man on the team sheet at Old Trafford and with England. Ferguson has no doubts and the way he was talking suggests a new contract might well be on the table when the current one runs out at the end of the season. Ferguson said: "Paul Scholes is an incredible player and he's conducting play so well just now." West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola, not dissimilar from Scholes in his own Chelsea heyday, added: "I would like to see him playing for a long time. He is a fantastic competitor. The first goal killed us. They are champions because they have players like that. "They never give up and they know how to win games. They (Scholes and Giggs) might be 35 and 36 but they don't look like it." United's supremacy was underlined when Darron Gibson, Scholes' successor-in-waiting, struck another thunderbolt in the second half. Antonio Valencia and Wayne Rooney completed the rout with tap-ins to leave West Ham in perilous territory at the wrong end of the table. No wonder West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green vomited in his goalmouth and had to be substituted, the wooziness he felt at kick-off eventually catching up with him when the final goal went in. Will Zola, coping without leading scorer Carlton Cole and who is likely to have Zavon Hines out for a lengthy spell with a knee injury picked up in the first half, have to sell to balance West Ham's stretched finances? That is the big question, but Zola was adamant. He said: "As far as I know we will not be under pressure to sell. The club does not want to sell anybody. I stand by that. We will see what happens. Hopefully we are able to buy. "We have to forget quickly about this game because they are on a different level. We need to pick ourselves up. A couple of results can change things quickly."
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