Manchester United legend Bryan Robson feels the club has missed midfielder Michael Carrick dearly this season.
Carrick, who emerged as a key player under Sir Alex Ferguson, missed the first three months of the season after undergoing a surgery on an ankle injury he suffered during preseason.
The Red Devils are currently eighth in the league, with just 13 points from nine matches, and were also knocked out of the Capital One cup by early by third tier side MK Dons. And Robson believes the situation would have been different, had the England international been available.
"Michael's been a big miss to United. When he was injured last season he was a big loss to us and again this season," the 57-year-old told the Express.
"He's an intelligent player who gets into the right areas. He's about 6ft 2ins and defensively at set plays is very good. He intercepts things very well. That's why he's important as well."
Carrick has now rejoined the first team after returning from the treatment table. However, the 33-year-old is still not 100 percent fit, and Robson is of the opinion that manager Louis van Gaal should not throw the midfielder into the mix in the Manchester derby at the Etihad, scheduled for this weekend.
"The only thing the manager has to be careful of is, if there are a few players coming back from injury, you don't want to play too many who are a little bit rusty because it's a derby game, it's going to be a million miles an hour, loads of passion and pace, so the lads who have been playing week in week out are probably more up to speed with the game," the former United star pointed out.
Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney, who has completed a three-match suspension after his red card against West Ham United last month, has returned to the fold. However, the forward is considered a doubt for the derby after he was spotted limping during a sponsorship event at Old Trafford on Monday.
The United skipper has scored a record 11 goals in Manchester derbies, and Robson believes the 29-year-old's presence will be a massive boost for the Red Devils.
"In these sort of games you need special players who can do special things and Wayne is one of those players. It's not just his ability but also his attitude. If the manager tells him to play in any position he is prepared to sacrifice himself for the team," Robson stressed.
"It is a great mentality to have and that's why he has achieved so much in his career already."