Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick is convinced his game has improved under Louis van Gaal this season.
The England international has been sidelined since the Manchester derby - which United sealed a 3-0 win over neighbours City - at Old Trafford.
And while many have praised Carrick's impact at United this season, the 33-year-old is thankful for the confidence that has been shown in him since the Dutchman's arrival.
"Well, we had a bad start [to our relationship] really," Carrick told Sky Sports. "On his first day, I went for an operation and was out for three months at the start of the season. Since then, he’s been terrific for me; he’s supported me and given me a lot of responsibility.
“As the season has gone on, I think I’ve shown that on the pitch; I’ve been happy with the way I’ve played.
"He’s a lot more measured and a lot more calculated with the positions he wants me to take up on and off the ball, and also in terms of distribution. If it’s five yards out, he’ll shout to let you know. It can change game to game – during the Liverpool match, for example, I was pretty much playing as an extra centre-back because of their system.
“Things changed for that one game, so he adapts and it’s good for me. I’m learning all the time."
When asked if he was playing his best football before his injury last month, he said: "I probably was. That spell in which we played Tottenham, Liverpool and City, those were massive games at a crucial time. To have played our best, and my own best football until then, it was a big part of the season for us.
"To come off against City was a huge blow for me – I didn’t really think I was going to be out for so long, but you’ve got to take it on the chin. I have to try to get fit again, even though it’s the end of the season. That’s what I’m working on now."
Carrick also said Van Gaal's meticulous ways have given the Red Devils a clear identity.
"I probably think about it [what I do on the pitch] a lot more now within the game, instead of with instinct and habits," the midfielder added. "You get good and bad habits, but I’m certainly thinking a lot more about certain scenarios in the game.
"At times, it goes against what you’re used to but for the benefit of the team, it’s far greater. Sometimes it can take a while for players to understand and adapt to that, and I think we’ve definitely seen an improvement as the season’s gone on. For sure, there’s still a long way to go yet.
"The manager has certainly got his own philosophy and his own style of play. We can see that now; there’s a clear identity when we play – it’s his way. With possession and the measured way we work our way up the pitch, it’s a fine balance and you need an end product. That’s what we're working on now."