Manchester United will defend 1-0 lead at home to Celta Vigo on Thursday as they seek to reach the final and Michael Carrick shares his memories of European nights at Old Trafford.
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In his 11 seasons at Manchester United, Michael Carrick has won pretty much all there is to win – UEFA Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup, Premier League, FA Cup – with one notable excepion.
Like United themselves, Carrick has never experienced victory in the UEFA Europa League or predecessor UEFA Cup but that could change on 24 May in Stockholm. On Thursday United defend a 1-0 semi-final lead at home to Celta Vigo, and 35-year-old England midfielder Carrick speaks to UEFA.com about European nights at Old Trafford, playing under José Mourinho and the Red Devils' determination to complete their European grand slam.
UEFA.com: What are European nights like at Old Trafford?
Michael Carrick: You always sense there's a different feeling around the ground and an extra positive energy. Pulling up to the stadium, there just seem to be more people around, there seems to be a bit more excitement. I think it's probably because over the years there have been so many special midweek occasions under the floodlights. I've been lucky enough to take part in some of them myself and have some great memories.
UEFA.com: Which stand out for you
Carrick: Barcelona in the [UEFA Champions League] semi-final in 2008 [a 1-0 win] was a game I'll never forget. The atmosphere and the emotion that night was something very special. And the Roma game when we won 7-1, for different reasons, was something quite special as well.
UEFA.com: What does it do to you physically when you experience that kind of atmosphere?
Carrick: It just tends to give you that extra bit of energy, that extra bit of adrenaline. I think everyone feels it in the stadium; you can't help it, whether you're a supporter of one of the teams or whether you're a neutral, whatever you're there for you feel that extra buzz and that extra energy. As a player that rubs off on you, which is what makes them such special occasions.
UEFA.com: Would you say Old Trafford is made for big European nights?
Carrick: It's certainly made for big games. The sheer number of people that can get in to watch the game and experience the game is enough in many ways. Over the years there have been so many occasions that people remember, that sort of just exaggerates the game. Certainly European nights are something everyone remembers and everyone's got a memory or two from over the years. Hopefully we can add to that in the semi-final.
UEFA.com: What would it mean for the club to win this trophy? Is there a space in the cabinet waiting for it?
Carrick: Without doubt. I'm personally desperate to get to the final and to try and win it. That's the only thing that matters. Whatever competition you're in, especially at this club, with the team we've got, we're looking to win it. It's a great opportunity. We'll respect who is left in the competition – it's not going to be easy and we're not taking anything for granted at all – but that's got to be the aim. There's nothing else that matters.
UEFA.com: What has the manager, José Mourinho, brought to this team since taking over last summer?
Carrick: He's a winner – he's won everywhere he's been, so that's almost enough. He's certainly got the respect of the players and everyone in football because he's been so successful. However he's done that, you've got to look and learn from it. He's like us – we all want to win and we all want to lift trophies.
UEFA.com: That sense of expecting better things to come – is he a big part of that?
Carrick: Yes. He's leading it, he's the manager, he's guiding us through and guiding the club through. There've been a lot of positive things to take from this season: the consistency of the team, the general performance. There's real confidence approaching the end of the season and looking ahead to next season.