Struggling with a full complement, United’s hopes of victory against Bolton at Old Trafford appeared to have disappeared when they were reduced to 10 following the dismissal of Jonny Evans 15 minutes from time.
Yet they not only managed to survive allowing Matthew Taylor a free header which should have been converted, United went on to collect maximum points thanks to Dimitar Berbatov’s 21st goal of the season.
At the same time, nearest rivals Arsenal were dropping two points at West Brom to hand the title initiative back to the Red Devils heading into an international break that has come at just the right time for Sir Alex Ferguson and his men.
“You have to keep believing and trusting each other,” said Carrick.
“Experience helps because we have done it a few times before.
“Going into the last five minutes you keep telling each other to be patient and that a chance will come. Then it is about putting it away.”
Berbatov was the right man at the right time, scoring his 21st goal of the season but his first since January 25, since when he has started only four out of United’s 12 matches.
That statistic is explained partly by the improved form of Wayne Rooney but also the continuing impact of Javier Hernandez, the man Ferguson “sacrificed” at half-time after it became apparent Wes Brown could not continue, leaving the hosts short of height to combat Bolton’s significant aerial threat. “Dimitar is doing very well,” said United assistant boss Mike Phelan.
“He has done everything we have asked of him and is working hard.
“It is never easy to come off the bench. But he kept his focus and got us the goal.”
United must hope Brown’s fresh injury and the three-match suspension Evans will serve for his challenge on Stuart Holden will be negated by the return of captain Nemanja Vidic and full-back Rafael ahead of the West Ham trip in a fortnight.
Holden sustained a nasty gash in a tackle with Evans. Bolton manager Owen Coyle said he felt it was just a full-blooded challenge between the two players in which Holden came off worst and as Bolton players called for immediate assistance, referee Andre Marriner decided the tackle warranted Evans’s expulsion.