Despite the security of a two-goal victory in Germany and a second leg at Old Trafford, Michael Carrick warns Manchester United FC not to underestimate FC Schalke 04.
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Complacency is not a word in Sir Alex Ferguson's lexicon so it was no surprise that Michael Carrick should warn about the danger of Manchester United FC taking anything for granted in their UEFA Champions League semi-final against FC Schalke 04.
It may be that United's manager shuffles his pack with Sunday's Premier League summit meeting with Chelsea FC in mind but whatever the lineup, Carrick said it would be foolhardy for them to simply defend their 2-0 lead from last week's first leg in Germany.
"Of course it does come into your mind, but I think the focus is as normal; to win the game," said the midfielder. "You have the two goals to your advantage but it is dangerous to go into a game relying on those to get you through. As always when we play at home we want to win the game and that is what we will be trying to do."
History suggests United can look forward to Wednesday's match with confidence – the Old Trafford team have won all 14 UEFA competition ties which they began with an away victory, while only twice in the UEFA Champions League era has a side overcome a home loss in the first leg.
Yet the fact Schalke hit five goals at FC Internazionale Milano in the last round is reason alone for United to remain on their guard, according to Carrick."Obviously that result – going to Inter and scoring five – stands out," he said.
"It is something you have to take into account. It was something we were well aware of last week; you have to be aware of their strengths and their weaknesses. But once you are at home like this, we have been playing some good stuff and we will be playing at the top of our game again to get the right result."
While Carrick rightly singles out United's home form, one curiosity of their campaign is the difference between their away results in Europe and in the Premier League. They are yet to concede on their travels in the UEFA Champions League, winning five of six games, yet have won just five of 18 on the road in their domestic league.
Carrick, for his part, has arguably reserved his best displays for the UEFA Champions League also – notably against Chelsea and last week in Gelsenkirchen. Pat Crerand, a member of United's 1968 European Champion Clubs' Cup-winning side, singles him out for praise in his programme notes for Wednesday's game, describing him as "the outstanding performer" in recent weeks.
Yet Carrick, a fine passer but not noted for his dynamism, dismissed the suggestion his style was better suited to Europe. "Not really, no. You just adjust your game," the 29-year-old said. "It is slightly different. Going away from home in Europe is different to going away in the Premier League and you have to adapt your style. As a team, as a squad, we adapt our style pretty well and show a good variety in our play." But, as Carrick reminded us, always with the same obligation to go out and win.