MC not pondering permutations
Michael Carrick has no intention of trying to work out who Manchester United might end up with in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
United are in the happy position of knowing their status as group winners is already assured with two games remaining. It means Sir Alex Ferguson could rest players for Tuesda night's encounter with Galatasaray in Istanbul should he so wish, although Saturday's unexpected setback at Norwich may have revised those plans slightly. In addition, it means United can observe key meetings elsewhere - including Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Manchester - from a detached perspective. But Carrick sees no merit in working out the best way for results to fall.
"You can drive yourself mad thinking about who you might get and all the various permutations," he said.
"We just have to win our games, which we have done, and see what the draw gives us. Whoever it is, we will be ready in February." In recent years, United have done rather well in the knockout stages of the competition too, reaching three finals, a semi-final and a quarter-final on the last five occasions they have progressed to the knockout stage.
"That is the big test," said Carrick. "That is when the competition really comes alive. We have done the first part. The second one is when we get the really big European nights and we go away to the best places in Europe and win games.
"We have managed to do that very well over the past few years. Hopefully we can get back to that."
Of course, all the success just made the shattering disappointment of exiting at the group stage last term all the more galling. The transformation this time around could not be more marked. Four wins from four games looks good, even if United have been behind in three of those matches and struggled to edge past Galatasaray in their first match, when an early Carrick goal did the damage.
"It is a happier place because of what we are doing in the Champions League," he said.
"Last year we were chasing our tails a bit and came up short. This year we have been ahead of the game.
"Getting those wins and points on the board makes it an awful lot easier."
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