Man United are ‘desperate’ to win the Europa League – Michael Carrick
Michael Carrick insists Manchester United want to win the Europa League and are taking Athletic Bilbao's threat seriously
Michael Carrick has insisted Manchester United are “desperate” to win the Europea League for the first time in the club’s history.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side face Athletic Bilbao at Old Trafford in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Thursday, and Carrick promised the Red Devils will approach the competition as if it were the Champions League.
“Bilbao will have to be respected,” Carrick told United’s website. “It is still a European competition. It is one we are desperate to win. We have never really been part of it.
“Who knows when the chance to win it will come round again? We want to grasp it. As players and, as a club, we are determined to go far.”
“It doesn’t take much motivation from the players’ point of view. It’s a competition we want to win. I want to win it.
“I’ve never played in this competition. We are still desperate to go as far as we would do in the Champions League.”
United have faced Spanish opposition 41 times in European competition, and the defending Premier League champions have won on just eight occasions at Old Trafford in 19 attempts.
And Carrick admitted United’s recent home form has been puzzling, following a home defeat by Ajax in last-32 and the draws against Benfica and Basel in the Champions League group stages.
“I’m not sure why our home form in Europe has not been so good,” Carrick added. “It’s a tough one.
“We haven’t quite performed on the night for whatever reason. Compared to recent years, when our home form has been formidable, it hasn’t quite happened for us this year.
“That’s the reason why we’re talking about the Europa League. The Ajax game was a bit of a disappointment but we got through. We can put that behind us and look forward.”
Pre-match facts: Manchester United v Athletic Bilbao
• Should United win the Europa League they will be only the fourth side to have taken all three of Uefa’s major club trophies, joining Ajax, Bayern Munich and Juventus.
• Bilbao have reached the round of 16 for the third time since the advent of the Uefa Cup group stage, having lost out in the round of 32 to FK Austria Wien in 2005 and Anderlecht at the same stage in 2010.
• If United win the Europa League, Sir Alex Ferguson will be the third coach to have won all three of Uefa’s major club competitions, after Giovanni Trapattoni and Udo Lattek.
• The next goal Bilbao let in will be the 100th they have conceded in the Uefa Cup and Europa League; this will be their 80th game in the two competitions.