MICHAEL Carrick insists he is a better player than when he last won an England cap 15 months ago.

The Manchester United star earned the last of his 14 caps in a friendly with Germany at Wembley under Steve Mc- Claren.

A combination of ill-timed injuries and, in the eyes of Mc- Claren and his successor Fabio Capello, poor form have since kept the 27-year-old out of the international picture.

However, Carrick must have been doing something right as during that time he has gone on to win a second Premier League title at Manchester United and played a major part in the Red Devils’ Champions League final win over Chelsea.

‘‘I certainly think I am a better player than when I last played for England,’’ said Carrick.

‘‘I have improved a lot by being at Manchester United.

Winning things is great and the honours we have won recently have been fantastic.

‘‘But as an individual you just want to keep improving all the time. That is what I have been doing.”

Carrick claimed he never stopped believing he would represent the Three Lions again. And his confident passing game has been missed, even if a midfield containing Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard was always going to present a major challenge to the former Tottenham midfielder.

‘‘I always believed in myself,”

he said. “I knew if I was playing well enough I would get the opportunity.”

The chances are Carrick will find himself involved against Germany tomorrow given the withdrawals of Gerrard and Lampard.