COMMENT By Will Butcher

Manchester United must offer Michael Carrick a 12-month contract extension as he continues his fine form at the heart of United’s midfield.

The 35-year-old star’s return to Jose Mourinho’s first team has coincided with United’s improved form that has begun to meet the demanding expectations of their fans.

With his contract set to expire in the summer, here are three reasons why Mourinho should give Carrick an extended stay at Old Trafford:

United need leaders

United’s descent from Premier League domination to struggling to achieve European football has coincided with the class of ’92 and other experienced first teamers finally leaving Old Trafford.

Without the likes of Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville and other older stars, Carrick must be kept to provide the experience that United so desperately crave.

Carrick’s experience and influence has helped win eight of his nine league and cup encounters this season, while United have won just 12 of their 22 games in total.

Discipline gives Pogba freedom

Alongside the France international, Carrick is able to sit in front of the back four and allow world-record signing Paul Pogba to get forward and join the attack.

Three of Pogba’s four goals in a United shirt this season have come while Carrick has played alongside him, as his defensive mentality gives the France international license to get forward.

Giving Carrick an extended deal will see the holding midfielder get the best out of Pogba, as United look to justify their £89million outlay.

Passing genius

A former England international, Carrick remains one of the best passers in English football as he continues to squeeze the ball through the opponent’s midfield to find a teammate.

His accurate inch-perfect passes give attacking midfielders Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard space and time to drive forward in attacking areas.

Keeping him in the side gives United a more defensive outlook through his positioning, as well as an incisive attacking edge that can unlock any defence.

In other Manchester United news, Aston Villa are lining up a move for this United academy product.