It was not quite clear why Michael Carrick, the minutes of which he had submitted as a player, was handed the reins of Manchester United on Tuesday as manager Jose Mourinho told the world he will not be leaving Old Trafford this summer.
“Jose’s taking time off so I’m taking responsibility for the team,” said Carrick, who was appointed interim manager at Old Trafford, and who will be in charge for the last two preseason friendly matches and the friendly against AC Milan next Tuesday. “I always know how the club works, and how the bosses want things to be handled. I know the drill. It’s flattering to be picked, but it’s not my priority at the moment.”
Carrick’s appointment is hardly a surprise. He has been Mourinho’s assistant since 2014, and has served as an assistant for every United manager since the club’s greatest ever midfield player, George Best, the so-called “Galacticos” era to the so-called “Old Guard” era. The 32-year-old has played more than 700 games for United, even when playing outside the Premier League, and has played every single minute of his final 11 Premier League games last season.
“Michael Carrick is a winner and a one-club man,” said United chief executive Ed Woodward. “As well as joining our staff when I joined in 2011, he has been part of everything we have achieved in recent years. He is an exceptional talent, and his contribution on the pitch, both as a playmaker and a goalscorer, has been crucial to our success. I’m delighted he has agreed to continue in this role.”
Since United’s title win under Sir Alex Ferguson in May 1999, United have rarely been in as much of a state of flux as they are now. They lost the midfielder Paul Scholes to Manchester City in 2012, they endured a painful title slump under David Moyes in 2013/14, and they finished last season in a turbulent transition under Mourinho. None of their major European rivals — or Premier League rivals — can touch the way United have dished out two trophies and 35 Premier League points in 2017.
Would losing their best player, Pogba, and the experienced Wayne Rooney, a genuine cross-over player, mean that they would be incapable of reclaiming any of the trophies that had been handed to them by Ferguson? It’s unlikely, but the imperative to keep some continuity at the club is becoming clear.
On Tuesday, the club confirmed to be at the Gabba in Brisbane against Melbourne City FC in the first game of their 2017-18 tour. Four days later, they will face Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, again in Australia. A trip to Las Vegas will follow that. Once again, faraway locations beckon them, and, with the uncertainty surrounding their managerial appointments, it is clear that Jose Mourinho is in a rebuilding process that will take several more months to complete.
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