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Football | Barclays Premier League

Carrick calls for return of United cutting edge

Michael Carrick believes it is time Manchester United rediscovered their ruthless streak as they bid to regain the English Premier League title.

Alex Ferguson's side visit strugglers Reading on Saturday looking to maintain their one-point advantage over rivals and defending champions Manchester City at the top of the table.

United had conceded the first goal in their previous five games before Wednesday's 1-0 win over West Ham when it took striker Robin van Persie just 33 seconds to find the back of the net.

But United's failure to add a second goal which ensured a nervous finish for the record 19-times league winners.

Now Carrick has called on United to show the same sharp edge they demonstrated when last winning the Premier League title in the 2010/11 season.

"We had a spell, a year or two ago, when we were starting games really well and killing teams off really early," Carrick said. "We want to get back to that.

"We want to make it that way, certainly in the games that are to come because going a goal down has made things a lot harder for us than they should have been," the United and England midfielder added.

"Keeping a clean sheet gives us something to build on in the future.

"The clean sheet is something to build on because the performance needs to be better," he insisted. "We're still in a good position at the top of the league. We are quite satisfied."

Carrick admitted United's performances had to improve after they struggled against Norwich, QPR and West Ham in their last three outings, especially as City – the only unbeaten team in the league – are hot on their tail.

Jonny Evans also reiterated Carrick's worries about a lack of killer instinct especially as United lost the title last season on goal difference.

"It is up to us now to find the right balance and to know when the right moment is to go forward and when it is the right time to hold our positions," Evans said. "I think when we get the right balance then we will be all right."

Antonio Valencia and Nani both missed Wednesday’s win but could return at the Madejksi Stadium.

But Japan's Shinji Kagawa remains out with a knee injury while Nemanja Vidic is a long-term absentee.

Reading have not beaten United for 85 years and after a difficult start to the season that has so far brought just one league win, few expect them to break that run on Saturday.

Brian McDermott's side are second bottom and four points from safety but the Royals manager did not accept that Saturday's result was a foregone conclusion.

"We're playing at home, we're playing at Madejski Stadium, and anyone that knows Reading Football Club knows that, in the last three years, how difficult a place it is for the opposition teams to come, and the statistics bear that out," he said.

Whatever the outcome, McDermott insists he had reason to be grateful for Ferguson's support after approaching the veteran manager via the Scottish boss's son, Darren, in January.

"I spoke to him in January about something that I needed to address and he was very helpful to me and giving me good advice," recalled McDermott. "I spoke to his son and asked him if he wouldn't mind Sir Alex giving me a ring.

"And, five minutes after that conversation, a private number came up and it was him. So, that just tells you the calibre of the man and what he's about."

Danny Guthrie could return from injury but Jimmy Kebe remains doubtful for the Royals.


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