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'He makes things happen' - Carrick's Man Utd influence recognised by Cottee

Manchester United recorded a fourth successive Premier League victory on Boxing Day, with Tony Cottee quick to highlight the value of Michael Carrick during a productive run for Jose Mourinho’s men.

It was an unhappy return to Old Trafford for David Moyes, with the Scot enduring further frustration at the Theatre of Dreams as his Sunderland team were swept aside 3-1.

Daley Blind, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan got the goals which downed the Black Cats but there was also another midfield masterclass put on by Carrick that was crucial to the result.

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The 35-year-old has come back into favour after starting the season on the fringes of the first-team picture, and the attributes he brings to the side have helped to bring about a reversal in fortune for United.

The former England international has been a steadying presence in the middle of the park, with his experience helping to keep the backdoor bolted and get the Red Devils ticking over as an attacking unit.

Cottee believes he has been as important as any other figure to United’s resurgence, with the role he plays allowing others around him to flourish.

He told Sky Sports: “It’s no coincidence that Michael Carrick has come back into the team.

“It’s alright looking at the back four and, yes, they were patient today, but there wasn’t much resistance from Sunderland – they had a few half-chances but Defoe didn’t see a lot of the ball, or Anichebe.

“But when you have that man Carrick sat in front of the back four, he gives them such protection and he makes things happen.

“They were a little bit too slow in the first half but when they stepped it up in the second half, a lot of it started from Carrick into [Paul] Pogba – who also had an excellent game in midfield.”

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United have only been breached on two occasions during their current winning run, with Mourinho’s methods starting to pay dividends.

The Red Devils will be looking to keep things tight again on Saturday when they wrap up 2016 with a home date against Middlesbrough.

They will enter that contest within touching distance of the top four, but still 13 points adrift of Chelsea at the Premier League summit.