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Michael Carrick could be out for six weeks

How will United adapt tactically to the loss of their only true first-choice midfielder?

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Alex Livesey

Michael Carrick, having already withdrawn from the England squad, has undergone a procedure on his nagging achilles injury that could keep him out for six weeks. Carrick admitted he was "a bit patched up to play" in Sunday' s 1-0 win over Arsenal, but the injury appears to be more serious than initially thought as the inflamed tendon failed to respond to an injection Tuesday.

We began and ended the day with unconfirmed reports about Mr. Carrick. This morning, we learned he had agreed a new two-year contract. Tonight, from The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph, comes the news that Manchester United may be without their only true first choice central-midfielder until Christmas. This is a serious blow to David Moyes: I don't need to list here the various form or fitness issues plaguing Cleverley, Felliani, and Giggs. Anderson has probably run out of chances at the club. Darren Fletcher's return from stomach surgery has been arduous enough as is--it cannot be expedited. United will clearly miss Carrick's passing and composure over a stretch in which they travel to Tottenham and Leverkusen and host Everton and Shakhtar. Yet there are reasons to be optimistic.

The biggest one of these is Phil Jones. Jones was superb in a midfield role against Arsenal, and he may now get the chance to make a position his own for the first time in two and a half seasons at the club. Jones will most likely be partnered with one of Cleverley or Giggs, the more creative of the remaining options. With all the other centre-backs fit, and both Valencia and Smalling around to cover for Rafael, there should be no need to bounce Jones around the pitch.

Marouane Felliani though, will see this as a big opportunity. Moyes admitted Friday that, due to other's injuries early on, "We had to put him in a bit earlier than we liked". Well, here we go again. Fellaini probably offers more in an attacking sense than Jones, and surely he is growing more comfortable at the club with each passing week. Then, there's the tantalizing possibility of a Jones and Felliani combination. Would that powerful, rangy duo take it in turns to bomb forward and slide into tackles, asking Rooney to drop deeper to collect possession while releasing the front three from many of their defensive responsibilities? Or would United be a broken team of specialist attackers and defenders, easily pinned back by slicker sides with more technical, nimble footballers? The December 18th trip to Stoke for the Capital One Cup quarterfinal presents a good chance to find out.

Moyes could even plump for a more radical reshuffle, like sitting one holding midfielder behind two from Januzaj, Rooney, and Kagawa in a 4-1-4-1, but he is unlikely to want to change the system that has carried the club to nine unbeaten. He's got two weeks to tinker.

NOTE: My despair at an unconfirmed six-week injury does not reflect well on the club's summer transfer policy. Donde esta Ander Herrara?