Michael Carrick is closing in on his return to fitness having been sidelined after undergoing ankle surgery before the season began and Manchester United have sorely missed him.
Games such as Leicester City, Everton and West Ham have exposed United’s weakness in letting teams get back into games despite United seemingly being in comfortable position.
Previously, Louis van Gaal summed up precisely why he thought it was happening: “I want to improve that we don’t lose the ball so easily.
“That is our problem, not our defence, we are easily losing the ball but that is also the character of our team because we have a lot of creative players and they need more discipline.
“So we are looking for a balance in attacking football without thinking too much in only attacking but also guarding your defence.”
United’s inability to retain possession has forced them on the back foot too often from leading positions and it has led to some desperate defensive performances, some which have worked out and others which have ended in defeat.
With the attacking fire power United have, there won’t be many occasions this season where they don’t score and where Carrick will make a difference is maintaining that lead comfortably rather than with squeaky bum time.
There’s no better player to bring on for the last 20/30 minutes of a game than Carrick to calm everything down, to focus on ball retention than quick passes forwards, to keep United in control of the game rather than trying to see the clock out.
United need to be able to curb their now natural attacking instincts when in a comfortable position and find the ability to see games out while maintaining control.
Nobody in United’s squad will be able to offer that like Carrick could which is why his return could be one of the pieces Van Gaal’s jigsaw has been missing.