England vs Moldova: "Massive opportunity" to lock up World Cup place says Michael Carrick before crucial double-header

Michael Regan – The FA

Michael Carrick is determined not to blow his "massive opportunity" now he is enjoying a career renaissance since coming out of England retirement.

Carrick, 32, had the season of his life for Manchester United in 2012-13, following his decision last summer to give his international career one more chance and make himself available for selection.

While some players insist playing solely for the clubs can prolong their careers, Carrick has proved it does not always work that way – his Three Lions comeback seemed to give him a new lease of life for , too.

Now, Carrick has his sights on helping in Brazil.

The 2014 finals could well be his last crack at a major tournament, but Carrick is not thinking like that – especially with his United mates Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand all showing that you can prolong careers well into your 30s.

Carrick said: "The World Cup is the next big opportunity, a massive opportunity. But in terms of it being my last one, I wouldn’t say so, no. I haven’t thought this is my last one. You never know what’s round the corner.

"You look at them (Giggs and Scholes) and they are the perfect example. I’m not saying I could do what they’ve done because it’s extreme.

"Even Rio, people were saying two or three years ago he wasn’t far off finishing and were questioning him. But he’s kept going and is still as strong as ever.

"You can find a way with experience of managing yourself and getting the best out of yourself in the later years.

"I probably did have my best season. I can’t deny that. It’s hard to judge. It’s hard to say. It’s other people judging you. It’s hard to talk about it.

"For me personally, I don’t think it was any different to two or three years before that, I felt my form was good, was consistent.

"I’m not denying that last season I was happy the way it went, It probably was the best but it wasn’t like I suddenly jumped from one level to the next. It’s up to other people to judge.

"Did England make a difference? Probably not, really. It’s not something any different. I didn’t go about my business any different, not about more confidence, or anything like that. It’s how it’s panned out.

"It can go both ways when players retire from international football.

"Sometimes there’s not an awful lot of difference between things going well and things going not so well, it’s a fine line at that level, it’s little details that count I suppose. In terms of making a difference it’s hard to judge."

Carrick originally gave up on England, feeling he was never given a fair crack of the whip by the Fabio Capello regime.

That ruled him out of Euro 2012 once Capello’s successor Roy Hodgson took charge of England.

Carrick admitted he was "always turning up and not playing. I decided if I wasn’t close to being involved, I’d rather not be there."

But despite being one of United’s stars in their title winning campaign, Carrick has still struggled to hold down a regular place for England, although the next two qualifiers offer him a new chance.

Carrick, however, insists that his decision to retire was never about demanding to be in the team and that remains the case now.

He added: "I didn’t say I’d come back expecting to start. That’s not my character at all.

"It was just something I wanted to do, and give it a crack, and have a fair crack, and hopefully my performance would get me in or not and that’s how it’s proved.

"The manager has options. The middle of midfield is probably a real strength in terms of the number of players playing at a good level. It is up to the manager and how he wants to go.

"It will be important for us to find the right pass (against Moldova) and the right movement. Penetration through their midfield will be important. I am sure we will be able to do that."

England have got what should be a comfortable three points at home to Moldova on Friday night, then a tough one away to Ukraine four days later.

Carrick believes Wembley will be the key to qualifying from a tight group, where England are two points behind leaders Montenegro with a game in hand and a point ahead of Ukraine.

"It is an opportunity. The home games are vital for us to put performances on and come away with the points we want," he said. "It will give us a great start to the week.

"We will re-assess after that. Two wins would be ideal. Hopefully we can get them. If not, we will re-assess after that."

How Group H stands

Montenegro  7  4  2  1  14   7   14

England        6   3 3  0  21   3   12

Ukraine        6   3  2 1  10   4   11

Poland          6  2  3  1  12   7    9

Moldova       7  1  2  4    4  11   5

San Marino   6  0  0  6   0   29   0

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