MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) - Michael Carrick has signed a one-year extension with Manchester United, ending speculation over whether the England midfielder would remain at Old Trafford when his current deal expired in the close-season.
Carrick had a clause in his deal that gave the Premier League team an option to activate a one-year extension at any point, a move United boss Louis van Gaal has now approved after several impressive performances from the 33-year-old in recent weeks.
"He is important," said van Gaal of Carrick on Friday. "He can read the game as a player on the pitch so he can coach during the game but he can improve that, I think.
"And he is also a midfielder who can play the ball forwards and that I like because our aim is always passing the ball more forwards than sideways or backwards.
"And he is my second (vice) captain, he is an important man for my selection. Wayne Rooney is my first captain and Michael Carrick is my second captain and that says enough what I think about those players."
Carrick missed the opening two and a half months of the current campaign with an ankle injury, but has bounced back impressively to make an important contribution to United's improved form.
United have lost just one game he has started this term and the former Tottenham player was delighted to extend his stay at Old Trafford, where he has collected five Premier League winner's medals and has also won the Champions League and League Cup.
"It's fantastic to know that I can continue my incredible journey with this great club," he said.
"I am thoroughly enjoying my football and the team are progressing in the right direction under Louis van Gaal.
"We are all incredibly focused on getting this club back to where it belongs and competing with the best teams in the world."
Meanwhile, van Gaal has echoed the claim, made by Manchester City's Manuel Pellegrini, that a busy Christmas schedule is the primary reason for English clubs failing so miserably in the Champions League this season.
"You have to go back to Christmas," said van Gaal. "The world is changing, it's not the same world as 20 years ago.
"Twenty years ago the English Premier League was up here, had a lot of money, a lot of players came to the Premier League because you are paying well and the Premier League is a high standard.
"But the other countries are developing themselves also, but they also have a winter break while we have to play four or five matches in two weeks and they have a break of two weeks.
"Then you have to play those after how many matches you have already played. How many matches have Bayern Munich played in the meantime, for example?
"That's the difference. They are much fresher than players of Arsenal or Chelsea. That, in my opinion, is the difference because players need rest."