Ominously for all those still standing in the Champions League, FA Cup and fighting for the Premier League title, Michael Carrick is convinced that Manchester United are back to their best.
Prior to Wednesday's away win over Porto, it had been five games since United last kept a clean sheet, part of a run that has seen their title credentials called into question and their European Cup defence look decidedly creaky. But Sir Alex Ferguson's team became the first English team to beat Porto on their own patch as they booked a semi-final meeting with Arsenal.
"When you have a couple of bad results people start questioning you," Carrick said yesterday. "But we have always known what we are capable of and last night we got back to what we do best. We defended well as a team and looked really solid. All of a sudden everything looks great again."
Carrick understands, though, that the picture can change depending on how individual results go. A meeting with Everton in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final at Wembley offers its own challenge, although for now the talk is of Arsenal and a renewal of the rivalry between Ferguson and his Emirates counterpart Arsène Wenger.
Carrick knows the two-legged tie, the first in United's history against another English club, will be eagerly anticipated. "Obviously, we know each other inside out," Carrick said. "Sometimes, you can have quite a cagey affair, on other occasions it can open right up, as it did between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday. I am sure they will be great matches for the neutral to watch, but hopefully we will come out on top."
Cristiano Ronaldo's matchwinner kept United on course for the quintuple. "It is relentless," Carrick said. "We are on course to play the most number of games we could play in one season. That is the aim. There is a game every three or four days now and they are all going to mean so much. That is what you want. It is great to be part of it. We are in a good position. Fingers crossed we will succeed."Reuse content