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Carrick identifies Villa win as title turning point

Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick believes the home win over Aston Villa earlier this month will prove to be the pivotal result in the Red Devils' season if the club go on to seal the Premier League title.

After Thursday night's victory over Portsmouth few would now bet against Sir Alex Ferguson's men going on to complete a record-equalling 18th league championship, but there was not the same level of certainty a few weeks ago after defeats to Fulham and Liverpool.

While Carrick is refusing to get carried away with United's position three points clear of Liverpool with a game in hand, he has identified what he regards as the point when the club got their bid for a third consecutive title back on track.

''Sometimes in a season you get a feeling that one moment is going to make all the difference. Aston Villa was one of them. It was a huge win,'' said the England midfielder, who was speaking at the NSPCC's Young People's Centre in Warrington.

''We were losing and ended up with Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck up front.

''At that point people wouldn't have given us much hope. Getting a victory that day gave a massive lift to everyone and since then things have gone pretty well.''

As far as Carrick is concerned a title hat-trick cannot be taken for granted despite Liverpool dropping points in Tuesday's 4-4 draw with Arsenal.

''We are only talking about one game,'' said the 27-year-old midfielder. ''In a lot of people's eyes last week we were not going to win the title. All of a sudden the same people are now saying it is a given. There are a lot of matches to play and there may be more twists and turns.

''Hopefully there aren't. Hopefully we win every game. But we can't get too disappointed or too carried away with individual results. That is the attitude [that] will see us through.''

United are set to welcome Wes Brown back into the fold against Carrick's old club Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.

Brown has reported no reaction to his foot injury following a reserve team outing at Preston North End on Monday, which is just as well given Gary Neville and John O'Shea are both likely to be out for 'weeks' according to manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

The pair may well be back before the end of the season, with Neville's injury not apparently another broken metatarsal, the injury that ruled him out of the 2002 World Cup.

However, Brown, who apart from two substitute appearances has been out of action since October, will be a valuable addition to face Harry Redknapp's men.

''We have had a good couple of weeks,'' said Carrick. ''But it is win at all costs now. If we can now beat Tottenham we really will be in a good position.''

Rio Ferdinand is also expected to return to the United squad ahead of a busy week which includes the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Arsenal at Old Trafford next Wednesday.

The pair have fought out many famous duels before of course. But this promises to be something different entirely.

''It is going to be strange,'' said Carrick. ''It is different playing another English team when there is so much at stake. League games are big, but there is always another one. If things don't go well in the Champions League you are out.

''We have no intention of letting that happen. I have not forgotten the feeling I had in Moscow last year. I want to experience it all over again.''

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