Michael Carrick praised the “responsibility and discipline” of Cristiano Ronaldo’s performance against Villarreal after revealing that he had given him permission to play on the frontline.
Manchester United scored twice in the last 12 minutes to beat the La Liga side and take a win in Carrick’s first game as agent, with Ronaldo opening the scoring with a typically cool finish.
Jadon Sancho added a second in the last minute as United secured a safe passage to the Champions League last 16 and gave Carrick the perfect start.
The caretaker was surprised when Ronaldo started on the left, a decision made to allow Anthony Martial to start as striker, but the duo sometimes switched positions and Carrick was happy with the flexibility.
“There’s not much more I can really say about Cristiano. It’s what he does, in the big games and big moments when you need something, he’s there to deliver. He has a cold and calculated mentality, he is so calm and doesn’t seize the opportunities,” he said.
“That’s what he’s gifted with and he’s worked really hard to become as good as he is. I’m really happy with him and I’m not surprised he managed to come up with a goal.”
“We started him from the left, with Anthony down the middle and the flexibility we have as a forward line, they chop and switch positions, but wherever they ended up, they defend with responsibility and discipline and that made us a much stronger team. If you work well as a team and put together the full package, you will get your rewards.”
The win was a vindication for Carrick after a few difficult days. As part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s backroom staff, he has recently been criticized, with the quality of coaching and tactical instruction coming to the fore.
But the former United midfielder devised an effective game plan at the Estadio de la Ceramica, though he missed the opportunity to hit back at his critics.
“It’s not an important result for me. It’s for the club and the players,” he said. “Tonight isn’t about me at all, it’s been an emotional couple of days, the first person I spoke to when it all happened and Ed asked me to play the part was Ole to see what he thought.
“I have a responsibility to be here and lead the team and I’m very proud of that. It wasn’t about me, it was about getting through, when you get to this stage in the group it can come from both sides. It It was essential that we came here and got the right results.”