• Carrick says United must improve European home form
• 'As players and as a club we are determined to go far'
Michael Carrick has accepted that Manchester United must pick up their faltering European home form if they are to progress against Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League – a competition they are "desperate" to win.
United are playing in the second-tier competition due to managing victory over only Otelul Galati at Old Trafford in the Champions League group stage. Sir Alex Ferguson's team play Bilbao on Thursday in Manchester in the first leg of the last-16 tie having lost 2-1 to Ajax at home in the second leg of the previous round to go through 3-2 on aggregate.
Carrick said: "I'm not sure why our home form in Europe has not been so good. It's a tough one. We haven't quite performed on the night for whatever reason. Compared to recent years, when our home form has been formidable, it hasn't quite happened for us this year. That's the reason why we're talking about the Europa League. The Ajax game was a bit of a disappointment but we got through. We can put that behind us and look forward.
"Bilbao is a tough place to go. We need to perform well at home to give us a chance in the away leg. Most of the time in recent years we've tended to play the away leg first. That will be something different for us. It won't change our approach hugely but we know how tough it will be over there. It is renowned to be a very hostile environment. They have fanatical fans but it's something we're looking forward to."
Carrick is adamant that United are intent on winning the competition. "It is still a European competition. It is one we are desperate to win. We have never really been part of it. Who knows when the chance to win it will come round again? We want to grasp it. As players and as a club we are determined to go far.
"It is not difficult to think we want to win it. It is understandable the reaction people give you and how people see it, but we are professionals and we are in this tournament, playing for this great club. It doesn't take much motivation from the players' point of view. It's a competition we want to win. I want to win it. I've never played in this competition. We are still desperate to go as far as we would do in the Champions League."
Paul Scholes was the most notable absentee from training on Wednesday ahead of the tie. His fellow midfielder Tom Cleverley did take part though, suggesting a potential comeback after his recent ankle injury. Chris Smalling seemed to have recovered from the head wound he sustained on England duty.
There was no sign of Michael Owen, and Antonio Valencia trained on his own as he continues his recovery from a hamstring strain. The youngster Paul Pogba was training with the reserves who were not involved in Tuesday's second-string match against West Brom, further fuelling reports he has agreed to join Juventus in the summer.