Manchester United: Finishing top all that matters - Carrick

Michael Carrick does not want Manchester United to carry on grinding out results - but he accepts winning the Barclays Premier League title is all they really care about.

United have managed to get themselves in a pretty positive position at the top of the table even though they have rarely been at their destructive best this term.

Ahead of local rivals Manchester City on goal difference, Sir Alex Ferguson's side also have two games in hand - and remain unbeaten.

Yet Sunday's draw at Tottenham epitomised their season. Obdurate defensively, they left White Hart Lane with a precious point despite doing little to threaten Heurelho Gomes' goal and having Rafael sent off.

"Of course we want to be playing at our best because we feel it gives us the best chance of winning games," said Carrick.

"You don't want to struggle through every game and have to rely on individual magic to win. We want to be playing well on a consistent basis.

"But it does boil down to finishing on top.

"That is what we are striving for."

Carrick has made the point on a few occasions that he personally derives more pleasure from a closely-fought battle rather than the type of runaway success United enjoyed against Blackburn in November.

Certainly, points secured against the odds at Sunderland, Aston Villa and West Brom this term may turn out to be vital in the final standings.

"We know ourselves when we haven't played great," said Carrick.

"But there is a determination within the squad.

"When you are not playing well it is a case of finding a way to win.

"We've been quite good at that over the years and it can be vital.

"If you get three or four games like that over the course of a season those points really count come the end of it."

Having already been held to a draw at Birmingham, United will be taking nothing for granted against Alex McLeish's men at Old Trafford on Saturday.

But three points would keep them top ahead of a trip to Blackpool, one of United's two matches in hand.

Should the Red Devils win that one - and beat Chelsea in their other additional game on March 1 - they would really be in command of the

championship picture.

However, Carrick, a veteran of United's last three title triumphs, feels to look at the situation in such a manner would be rather foolish.

"It is very dangerous to start banking points before you've got them," he said. "We're not in to that.

"You've got to take the table for what it is - it's up to us to go and earn the points whenever that may be.

"Things will start to even themselves out after the Blackpool game."

The table is significant, though, even if it is just in the sense of security it brings from the knowledge that plans are falling into place.

"It does gives you a lot of confidence when you look at the table and see that you are on top," he said.

"But from this position, the key is not to get carried get away and make sure you don't get complacent.

"You've got to keep on your toes and keep driving forward."

Although Rafael has requested a personal hearing for his misconduct charge, which will be held on Friday, the Brazilian will definitely be suspended for the Birmingham encounter.

Potential replacements include veteran Gary Neville, who has not impressed during his two most recent Premier League appearances when he was lucky not to get sent off on both occasions.

Ferguson's other options are Wes Brown has been used sparingly this season and has been linked with a move away from Old Trafford, while

John O'Shea only made his first reserve team appearance on Tuesday after missing eight matches with a calf injury.

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