MICHAEL CARRICK knows there will not be many more Champions League nights for him but is confident that he is passing on Manchester United’s midfield baton to a star of the future in Scott McTominay.
As Carrick begins the countdown to his retirement this summer after a distinguished 20-year career, McTominay, 21, is just starting out and showing the same down-to-earth attitude and selfless team work that has been the hallmark of United’s club captain.
McTominay’s impressive form in his early games earned him his first call-up by Scotland yesterday as well as a significant nod of approval from Old Trafford’s elder statesman ahead of tonight’s Champions League last-16 second leg against Sevilla.
In an era when young players seem more interested in the trappings of fame rather than improvement on the pitch Carrick, who will be 37 in July, said: “Scott doesn’t seem too interested in all the glitz and the glamour that can surround young players these days.
“It is about making a career. You can’t live like you have had a career before you have had a career.
“You’ve got to earn it, you’ve got to establish yourself and he has done great so far.
“It’s early days, he has a long way to go to get to the other end of the scale where I’m at but he has given himself the best possible chance to do it.
“It is quite refreshing to look at Scott and see how he deals with it. He is a great lad, he is humble, he takes everything in which gives him a great chance of improving all the time.
“He’s desperate to do well and he is always doing extra in training, looking for those little things to improve on. He’s a shining example for kids to look up to.”
Carrick has accepted an invitation to join Jose Mourinho’s coaching staff when he hangs up his boots at the end of the season but has already been passing on advice to McTominay and other youngsters in the United squad.
And he is delighted that Mourinho has given a chance to a player who, like Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, has continued the long tradition of home-grown products breaking into the Manchester United first team.
“We keep producing them as a club and that is incredible in this day and age when there is so much scrutiny and money and people are clamouring to sign this player and that player,” he said.
“You have to give the manager credit for giving him a chance. He has played in some huge games already this season. It’s great to see the young lads get the chances in big games to show what they can do.
“Sometimes you don’t really know what you have until you are tested and Scott has had a similar ride to Marcus [Rashford] in the sense that he probably wasn’t very close to the first team but got his chance and took it and he has been pretty much an ever-present since then.
“I will try to help him as much as I can. I will give him bits of advice but credit to him, he has done great so far.”
Carrick admits a heart problem that required minor surgery earlier in the season has played a part in his decision to retire but he insists he is still ready to play a part if needed in the final three months of the campaign that could yet end with FA Cup and Champions League glory.
After considering calling it a day in September, he decided he wanted to go out on his terms rather than medical ones.
Having helped United reach three Champions League finals and a semi-final, Carrick would love to go into retirement having helped the club re-establish itself as a European force, starting with a win over Sevilla tonight, which would put them in the last eight for only the second time in seven seasons.
“For so long here being involved in the latter stages of the Champions League was kind of a given – not taken for granted – but it was just what we did and, when you go without that for a few years, it kind of hurts, you kind of miss it.
“But we are back in the knockout stages where it really counts and you get that extra spicy feeling. Sevilla will be a tough match but, if we play like we can do, we have a great chance. And for the seasons ahead we need to develop as a squad, be constantly in this position – and expect it of ourselves.”
Young McTominay, for one, will no doubt heed Carrick’s rallying call.