By Richard Clarke
Michael Carrick is likely to line up against Arsenal on Sunday but, for a time, Arsène Wenger saw him as the natural replacement for Patrick Vieira.
The French midfielder was linked with a move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2004. Had the transfer gone through, Wenger would have gone for the 25-year-old Englishman to fill the void. Circumstances changed and Carrick eventually went to Tottenham just before the transfer window closed that year.
In July this year he left White Hart Lane for Old Trafford in a deal reported to be worth £18.6 million. Wenger remains an admirer.
"He has made a big step up," said the Arsenal manager. "I felt that Manchester United had the need to take a central midfielder. They paid a bit more because Tottenham didn't necessarily want to lose him. That is the explanation of his price.
"But I personally I rate him as a player because he nearly came here. When Vieira wanted to leave for Madrid, it was him I planned as a replacement.
"It didn't happen because Vieira stayed and we had Edu,
Gilberto already and then Fabregas. I felt it was unfair to him to
make him come and not play.
"I didn't go in for him again this time because I knew that Tottenham to Arsenal is an expensive way [to move]."
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