Manchester United treated their stalwart Michael Carrick to a memorable farewell on Sunday after a first-half goal by Marcus Rashford gave them a 1-0 home win over Watford on the final day of the season.
Carrick, who is unlikely to be picked for Saturday’s FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday and will assume a coaching role at United next season, was treated to a guard of honour by both teams before kick off.
The 36-year-old midfielder also received a standing ovation from the fans when he was substituted in the 85th minute by Paul Pogba, drawing the curtain on a trophy-laden career at United since he joined them from Tottenham Hotspur in 2006.
Once described by former United captain Nemanja Vidic as “the glue that holds it all together,” Carrick said he was looking forward to a new role in the dugout next to the club’s manager Jose Mourinho.
“It’s not a sad goodbye by any means, I’ve got a lot to look forward to,” said Carrick.
“I’m looking to create more memories on the other side of the fence with Jose and his staff and bring success back to this club.
“The reception was incredible. I’ve had ups and downs at the club over the years. It’s the greatest club in the world so it’s been beyond my wildest dreams as a young kid.”
Carrick has won five Premier League titles with United, the 2008 Champions League and the 2017 Europa League.
United’s second-place finish in the Premier League is their best since they won their 20th title under Alex Ferguson in 2013.
Although both teams seemed to go through the motions on a sunny day at Old Trafford, a moment of magic from Carrick settled the contest when he rolled back the years to delight the home crowd.
He found Juan Mata with a delightful pass and the Spaniard squared it back for Rashford to tap the ball in from close range in the 34th minute.
United’s stand-in goalkeeper Sergio Romero pulled off a fine double save on the stroke of halftime, keeping out a close-range header by Richarlison and then smothered a Gerard Deulofeu shot with the game fizzing out after the break.
Carrick added it was an emotional farewell as he captained United one last time, having walked on to the pitch with his children.
“It’s an emotional day,” he said. “This morning it hit me a little bit. I was fine once I got here but in the hotel before I left, it was mixed emotions.
“It was nice to play and win, the reception was very special. Being out there with the kids is something that you always cherish.”
Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Pritha Sarkar