Michael Carrick admits that Manchester United’s season has been damaged by too many draws but insists they are making progress under Jose Mourinho.
United’s only defeat in their last 17 matches was a 1-0 reverse to Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter-final at Stamford Bridge, while they have not lost in the Premier League since a 4-0 thrashing by the leaders on October 23.
A failure to break down stubborn opponents and see out matches from winning positions has hampered their progress this term, however. United have 12 draws in the top flight – nine of which have come at Old Trafford – and remain four points outside the top four in the table.
Mourinho has criticised his attacking players for failing to kill off games and was again frustrated at their inability to take their chances as they drew 1-1 in the first leg of the Europa League quarter-final against Anderlecht, in which the Belgian side struck a late equaliser.
Carrick feels there are encouraging signs in their performances but concedes that stalemates have been “killing” much of their campaign.
Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s visit on Sunday, he said: “I can’t compare us to any other team, to be honest. We concentrate on ourselves. We believe we will get better. We will improve. There are a lot of good signs.
“But you look at yourselves and say if we were really struggling football-wise and were miles away then in some ways, you can’t accept it, but you can see why you are struggling.
“But we have been playing so well for so long. The draws are killing us. In some ways you are better off losing one and winning one than doing what we have been doing having drawn so many.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 13, 2017
“But going on a run like we have done shows we have a bit of steel and have a bit of character about us.
“There are positives but at the moment it is not quite enough for us. We need that something to finish teams off. We have got to be ruthless and have to finish games off. We have to find a way. It is close, we are getting better but we still have to find that way.
“We have the quality in attack. It is disappointing if you are not creating but we are looking dangerous and I am sure it will come. As a team and a squad we are growing. We will develop that.
“We are not in a bad place but we need to find as a team a way to win games especially when you are playing so well as we have done. I don’t think we are far away.”
With matches against Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham still to come this season, a defeat to Chelsea would likely spell the end of United’s hopes of finishing in the top four.
Winning the Europa League would see them qualify for the Champions League group stage regardless but Carrick is adamant that they will not give up on their league campaign.
“Forget about next season – we have enough to play for this season,” said the 35-year-old. “We are not looking any further ahead than that.
“The Premier League top four is still an opportunity. People are saying that the Europa League is the best chance for us but you cannot look at it like that. Football is football and a lot can happen. There is no way we can give up on the top four.
“It is still close. Yes, we have a tough run in but it is still close.”