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Champions League

Man Utd squad boards flight to London as Michael Carrick leads stars vs Chelsea


Caretaker manager Carrick will take charge of a second successive game as Man Utd attempt to avoid falling 15 points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea

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Press conference with Manchester United’s caretaker manager Michael Carrick ahead of his side’s Premier League match against Chelsea

Michael Carrick remains in the dugout for Manchester United’s tough test away at Premier League leaders Chelsea.

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The caretaker manager oversaw a victory over Villarreal in midweek, securing United’s passage to the last 16 of the Champions League, and will look for a second straight win before eventually handing the reigns to incoming interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

Rangnick’s arrival has been delayed by a visa issue, meaning he might not be in the dugout until next weekend’s match at home to Crystal Palace.

Last weekend’s defeat at Watford was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s final game in charge of the Manchester side, who are chasing what would be just their second victory in eight league outings.

Harry Maguire’s red card at Vicarage Road means he will not feature on Sunday – although he has travelled – while Carrick has a number of injury concerns elsewhere in the squad.

Carrick will have a decision to make in midfield after Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic started the defeat at Watford
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Eamonn and James Clarke)

Can Manchester United get anything from their game against Chelsea? Have your say in the comments section

Carrick has already overseen one victory, with goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho making the difference in Spain.

And it remains to be seen whether he will make significant changes to the starting XI which secured that important European win against Villarreal, amid some injury concerns.

United are still waiting on the return of Raphael Varane, who has not featured for the side since leaving the field injured in the draw with Atalanta on November 2, meaning Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof will likely be the centre-back partnership at Stamford Bridge.

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Other players could return from injury against Chelsea, with United hoping they can welcome Luke Shaw back from the concussion which ruled him out of the last game.

Paul Pogba has served the three-match suspension he picked up for his red card against Liverpool in October, but will miss the game after suffering an injury during the international break, likely to keep him sidelined until 2022.

Edinson Cavani has also been an injury absentee of late, and the Uruguayan told club media: “During this period of the international break, I’ve had the chance to stop and focus on this niggling injury that I’m feeling in the tendon in my leg.

“So I can speed up my recovery and come back quickly and be available for my club and national team.”

The former Paris Saint-Germain striker has not featured since coming off the bench during the 2-2 draw away to Atalanta, and wasn’t spotted by photographers as the team prepared to head south.

Others not spotted include Shaw and Mason Greenwood, who missed the last two games after a positive Covid test, but Maguire has travelled south despite being unavailable.

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Bruno Fernandes was left out of the starting XI against Villarreal, with Donny van de Beek starting
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Eamonn and James Clarke)

Fred played the full 90 minutes for United against Villarreal
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Eamonn and James Clarke)

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One of the big calls made by Carrick during the week saw Bruno Fernandes drop out of the starting XI, with Donny van de Beek taking his place.

Carrick suggested Van de Beek’s versatility can work in his favour, even making reference to the Dutchman occupying a false nine role at previous club Ajax.

“We’ve got ideas where we think Donny’s most suited but he’s so flexible and adaptable, with two or three positions,” Carrick said in a pre-match press conference.

“We’ve got ideas for him but being flexible is a strength and a credit to what he can bring to the team.”

Who should start for Man Utd against Chelsea? Pick your XI below

Anthony Martial also earned a rare start, playing more than an hour against Unai Emery’s side.

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Brazilian midfielder Fred was spotted among the players preparing for the trip south, though, and the former Shakhtar man could start a second straight game after being left on the bench at Watford.

United went into the weekend in eighth place, having suffered a fifth defeat in seven outings last time out, but can overtake Wolverhampton Wanderers with a victory after Bruno Lage’s side drew at Norwich.

They will kick off 12 points behind the league leaders, with the concerning prospect of the gap widening to 15 if the Blues win on Sunday.

Man Utd travelling party*: David de Gea, Dean Henderson, Tom Heaton, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Diogo Dalot, Phil Jones, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Alex Telles, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay, Fred, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial.

*Others may also have travelled but were missed by Mirror photographers

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