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Carrick keen to keep run going

Manchester United FC may be through but Michael Carrick says it is vital to maintain the "winning habit" against fellow qualifiers AS Roma in the Italian capital.

At 26, Michael Carrick is likely to provide a wise old head for United in Rome
At 26, Michael Carrick is likely to provide a wise old head for United in Rome ©Getty Images

Manchester United FC may be through to the UEFA Champions League knockout stage after a run of five straight wins assured their progress as Group F winners, but Michael Carrick insists it is vital to maintain the "winning habit" when the side meet AS Roma at the Stadio Olimpio.

"It's more important to produce the goods later in the season when it really counts but winning is an important habit to get in to," said the 26-year-old midfielder, whose side are aiming to join an élite band of teams to finish with a 100 per cent group-stage record. "We want to win all six games in the group," he continued. "It will give us all more confidence and self-belief as it will be some achievement. The fact that only three teams have ever won all their group games before is a statement that, if we do it, we are a very good team."

Strength in depth
United would become the fourth team to achieve the feat after AC Milan, FC Spartak Moskva and - most recently, in 2002/03 - FC Barcelona and they will fancy their chances having done little wrong on the pitch of late. Sir Alex Ferguson's charges have won nine of their last eleven outings in all competitions and Carrick, who came into the side that beat Derby County FC at the weekend at the eleventh hour after Owen Hargreaves broke down in the warm-up, likes what he sees. "At this stage we are looking very strong," he said. "The squad as a whole is very strong."

'Great experience'
That assessment will be tested in Rome when Sir Alex rests a few of the club's bigger names and takes the opportunity to blood some of his younger players. "Playing here in Rome last year was a great experience for me and this year there are other young lads who will get that experience and we're really looking forward to the game," said Carrick. "We can rest big players and bring them back refreshed in the latter stages [of the competition]. Whenever we play we are capable of producing the goods but it's later on that the squad really comes into its own - when we need our big guns to fire."