Michael Carrick: Manchester United injuries are no excuse for poor performances

Experienced midfielder disagrees with manager over cause of Danish disaster

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The Independent Football

Michael Carrick has rejected Louis van Gaal’s argument that a long injury list was the root cause of Manchester United’s miserable performance against FC Midtjylland on Thursday night.

The United manager, who has been pushed to the brink of dismissal by a series of dismal results against  moderate opposition, said the 14 injuries the club had suffered had drained his team of confidence.

“I don’t think you can use injuries as an excuse. Injuries are part of the game,” said Carrick, who described himself as “bitterly disappointed, frustrated and angry” at the 2-1 defeat. 

“It is not ideal and we want everyone to be fit but I can’t make any excuses and I can’t put that down as a reason for losing. You can make any excuse you want but at the end of the day we were not good enough.”

On Monday, United will face Shrewsbury in the fifth round of the FA Cup without Wayne Rooney, David De Gea or Bastian Schweinsteiger. Defeat could see Van Gaal fired within the week.

The Manchester Evening News demanded his sacking in a back-page editorial the morning after a loss in Denmark judged among the worst in the club’s European history. It would have been by a wider margin than 2-1 but for some goalkeeping heroics by Sergio Romero, deputising for De Gea, who injured himself in the warm-up.

Despite the abusive chants aimed at Van Gaal, 800 Manchester United supporters made their way to a small town in Jutland, paying £71 each for a match ticket. There will be a little over 1,500 of them at the Greenhous Meadow on Monday night, each paying only £20, and Carrick pleaded with them to stick by their club.

“We haven’t given them an awful lot to shout about in the last two or three years but they have stuck by us, supported us incredibly well and come here,” he said. “I can only apologise for losing a game like that and not rewarding them for their support. We have to pick ourselves up and go again. There is no other way.” Shrewsbury’s New Meadow has a very similar feel and capacity to the MCH Arena in Herning, where United suffered their humiliation last week.

Should Van Gaal fail to progress in the FA Cup and go out of the Europa League at Old Trafford on Thursday, the hand of the club’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, will be forced.

Woodward’s treatment of Van Gaal is markedly different from that dished out to David Moyes, his predecessor. He decided Moyes was not good enough after a 2-0 defeat to Olympiakos in the Karaiskakis Stadium in February 2014, taking a photo of the scoreboard to remind himself how low United had sunk.

Although Moyes won that tie with a 3-0 victory at Old Trafford, Woodward acted on his instincts the moment it became mathematically impossible for United to qualify for the Champions League. The defeat that finally did for Moyes was not in a modest little ground in Denmark but in Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena in the quarter-finals.

Firing Van Gaal now would be popular but messy. Jose Mourinho, the clear favourite to replace the Dutchman, would prefer to take over in the summer rather than walk into a dressing room riven by injuries and low morale.

Sacking Van Gaal with more than two months of the season remaining would entail putting Ryan Giggs back in temporary charge and then relieving him of his duties once more. Giggs, whose name was chanted repeatedly by the United supporters as he oversaw the warm-up on Thursday, would find that hard to bear.