Michael Carrick eager for Manchester United to achieve early progress from Champions League group

 

Michael Carrick wants Manchester United to wrap up their progress to the Champions League knock-out stage as quickly as possible.

After winning their opening two games, United head into back-to-back fixtures with Portuguese challengers Braga knowing six points will confirm their place in the last 16 with two matches to spare.

It would represent a swift turnaround from last season's struggles, when they failed to make it out of the group, crashing out with a defeat in Basle, having amassed just nine points.

And Carrick is aware the spin-off from early progression will be to give Sir Alex Ferguson more room for manoeuvre with his Premier League selections.

"It does help the league form if you can get through early," said Carrick.

"The manager can change things around. He can rest players. He can use the squad and give players game time.

"The pressure is off. He can start planning ahead knowing the next stage is already secure.

"It is not always possible. Sometimes it can go down to the last game, which in itself is not always a bad thing.

"Overall though, it is better to get it done and dusted."

Not that Carrick is taking anything for granted.

Braga have managed to split the traditional dominance of the 'big three' in Portugal, securing their progress at the expense of Sporting Lisbon.

And though they suffered a surprise defeat to Cluj in the opening round of fixtures, Braga's 2-0 win at Galatasaray three weeks ago will make plenty sit up and take notice.

As they also boast a five-match unbeaten record against English opposition, Carrick is right to be wary.

"It can be quite tough to judge in the Champions League," he said.

"It isn't necessarily the teams that catch your eye who are the ones that cause you problems.

"You have to respect them for getting to this stage.

"It is not easy in any league to go through the whole season near the top. They are going to be of a certain standard and we have to match it."

After his pointed comments about Rio Ferdinand in the aftermath of Saturday's Premier League win over Stoke, it will be interesting to see whether Sir Alex Ferguson selects the veteran defender.

Ferdinand did sit out the home game against Galatasaray last month, although following the injury to skipper Nemanja Vidic, the 33-year-old was a central figure in the subsequent victory over Cluj.

Ferguson is due to speak at the scheduled pre-match press conference this afternoon, when, for once, he might be on the back foot given it is difficult to see what sanctions he can impose on the former England defender, who refused to wear a Kick It Out T-shirt at the weekend.

PA

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