Michael Carrick unfazed by underdog tag
Midfielder Michael Carrick does not care Manchester United will go into tomorrow's Champions League final as underdogs to Barcelona.
Pep Guardiola's side have been hailed as potentially the greatest club team of all time thanks to their free-scoring brand of flowing, passing football.
In contrast, despite winning a record 19th league title the assessment of United's class of 2011 has been underwhelming.
Irrespective of what the critics and commentators think, Carrick believes the Red Devils can match the Spanish champions at Wembley.
"It doesn't bother us who is favourite and who is not. It is about performing in a one-off game," he said.
"We respect them for what they are, the way they play the game and the strengths they have.
"We are well aware of how they play but at the same time it is about us as well.
"We are there for a reason, we have gained a lot of experience over recent years and hopefully it will all come together on Saturday night.
"Look at the number of changes the boss made in the Schalke game (a 4-1 semi-final second-leg victory) and questioning that received.
"The depth and strength of the squad was there for all to see when we won like that in the semi-final of the Champions League."
Carrick played in both United's finals in 2008 and 2009, winning the first on penalties against Chelsea in Moscow but losing 2-0 to Barcelona in Rome 12 months later.
Even though there have been other examples of clubs reaching finals in close proximity - both Liverpool and AC Milan in 2005 and 2007, Barcelona in 2006 and 2009 - Carrick said it was still an achievement to be savoured.
"It is not something you can take for granted," said the England international.
"We have had a good spell over recent years but it is not something which usually comes around every year so it is important to grasp the opportunity while it is on offer.
"You don't want it to slip away and it is really about who performs on the night.
"I've got a bigger buzz about this one than I did the first one, there is certainly some excitement because this is the Champions League final.
"Every game is a new challenge and an opportunity to improve again.
"A Champions League final at Wembley against Barcelona doesn't come much bigger than that."
Carrick believes United possess a number of players who have run into form in the latter stages of the season - he being one but, more significantly, Javier Hernandez the most improved.
"My form has gone well in the second half of the season," said the 29-year-old.
"As a team I think we have got better as the season has gone on, especially after Christmas when we kicked into gear.
"When the team is playing well and everyone in the squad is in top form as an individual it is easier to be on the top of your game."
But it is the performances of £6million summer signing Hernandez, scoring 20 goals and forging a profitable partnership with Wayne Rooney, which has impressed Carrick.
"It is incredible what he has done this season, to come in (from Mexico) with such a change in culture and lifestyle.
"He wouldn't have expected to have played as many games in the first team as he has and score as many goals.
"His goals have stuck out but it is his overall contribution his team-mates appreciate.
"He is a great lad and people like that you just want to see be successful."
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