Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson feels English midfielder Michael Carrick is the key to the Red Devils performing well in Europe this season. United had an enviable record up until last year's group stage elimination, having reached the final thrice in the four years before.
Ferguson has already overseen two Champions League triumphs for United and is confident he can add to that tally this season... if Carrick performs as expected. The manager has rated his potential contribution as more important than the likes of Wayne Rooney, Nani and Paul Scholes.
"I think Michael Carrick is the key to it. He did really well in the second half of last season and I think he's going to be the key man. Scholes will obviously play his part, Ryan Giggs as well and Tom Cleverley hopefully as well as Anderson if he keeps fit," The Sun quoted Ferguson as saying.
"They will all play a part - but, for me, Carrick is the key player. If you look at the central midfielders in the Premier League, he can match up against any of them in terms of quality," he added.
The 70 year old Scot also stressed on the need to improve group stage performances -they won only two of six games last season.
"That definitely won't happen next season, there is no chance of that. Over the last few years we have used the group stages in Europe as an opportunity to play some of the youngsters. We have done it two or three times - but last season it backfired for us. We changed the team too much and we won't be doing that this season," he added.
Carrick, who was not included in England's Euro 2012 squad, said he was looking forward to the new season.
"I have had as long a rest as I have had in my own career really. It was seven weeks. At this stage, I feel refreshed and revived. Sometimes you need that break to go again," Goal.com quoted Carrick as saying.
Meanwhile, apart from the Champions League, Carrick explained the Red Devils were also keen to reclaim their Premier League crown after losing it to Manchester City last season.
"The enthusiasm, determination, desire and everything is there, especially the way we finished last season. In terms of not winning the league, we want to bounce back and start again. That is exactly how I feel. I am determined to start the season well and win trophies again for this club," he added.