Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blues Star on Red Alert over Carrick; Manchester City's Gareth Barry Will Have to Fight Hard to Retain a Key Position in England Team Ahead of His Rival Midfielder at United. Simon Johnson Reports

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blues Star on Red Alert over Carrick; Manchester City's Gareth Barry Will Have to Fight Hard to Retain a Key Position in England Team Ahead of His Rival Midfielder at United. Simon Johnson Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: Simon Johnson

MANCHESTER looks like being the setting for some of the biggest battles in football this season.

The city's two clubs have already played out one of the fiercest contests in the Premier League this term and look like going head-to-head in the title race, too.

Now the fortunes of Manchester United and Manchester City are to play a part in deciding one of the closest competitions in the England squad.

The thrilling contest between the two clubs last month, which saw United beat their neighbours City 4-3 with an injury-time goal, proved there was little between the two sides.

The fight between Michael Carrick and Gareth Barry for a starting role at the World Cup next summer could be even closer. In the blue corner there is Barry, who is the current favourite having cemented a regular place under coach Fabio Capello before he improved his credentials by moving to Eastlands from Aston Villa for [pounds sterling]12million in the summer.

However, he faces a real challenge from Carrick, in the red corner at Old Trafford, while United's Owen Hargreaves is also waiting in the wings, depending on his ability to make a full recovery from long-term knee injuries.

The position of holding midfielder has emerged as one of the most crucial in the modern game and will be particularly vital to England's chances in South Africa where the attackminded Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Aaron Lennon could leave the team exposed at the back.

The position's importance was highlighted against Ukraine at the weekend, where England were down to 10 men for three-quarters of the match and struggled at both ends of the pitch.

Carrick must have been cursing his misfortune after being given a rare chance to impress in what was his first start in a competitive England game since playing in the 2-0 defeat away to Croatia in October 2006.

Of course, he has featured in friendlies since then and as he demonstrated in the impressive 2-1 victory away to Germany last November, he has all the talent to make the position his own.

Yet, against Ukraine he struggled to dictate proceedings, which was understandable considering England were a man down and had sacrificed Lennon so that David James could replace the sent off Robert Green in goal.

He is expected to make way for Barry in England's final qualifier against Belarus tomorrow but, according to Frank Lampard, the scrap between the two is far from over.

Lampard has thrived playing alongside Barry at international level over the past 12 months, yet is also a huge admirer of Carrick having first struck up a good understanding with him at West Ham, where they both started their careers.

The 31-year-old is all too aware that the two of them are going head-to-head for a starting role at the World Cup and believes their form for their clubs this season could be decisive. …

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