Ronaldo was surprisingly named among United’s substitutes at Stamford Bridge as Carrick preferred Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho as his attackers.
The Portugal striker had scored a priceless goal in United’s vital Champions League win at Villarreal on Tuesday, but Carrick opted to start without him in west London.
Carrick, serving as United’s caretaker boss after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sacking, said Ronaldo was on board with the decision.
“Few tweaks and changes from the other night, freshen things up a bit. Gameplan, ideas. Had a good chat with Ronaldo and he was great, we have decided to go like that today,” Carrick told Sky Sports just before kick-off.
United are set to hire former Leipzig boss Ralf Rangnick imminently as their interim manager until the end of the season.
And given Rangnick’s preference for a intense pressing gameplan that may not suit Ronaldo, it was intriguing to see the former Juventus forward left on the bench by Carrick.
Ronaldo was dropped by Solskjaer for a draw against Everton earlier this season and, although he came on as a second-half substitute on that occasion, he still left the pitch with a face like thunder.
Even former United manager Alex Ferguson appeared to disagree with that decision when he was filmed on the day of the Everton game telling a friend “you should always start your best players”.
Carrick tried to preempt any more Ronaldo controversy as he added: “It is a decision to pick a team, don’t think it needs any more drama than that.
“Everyone is fine, all the boys who have come out of the team have been terrific, Cristiano included and ready to come on if needed.”
With United languishing 12 points behind Chelsea after two successive league defeats, Carrick needs his Ronaldo gamble to pay off.
The 36-year-old has scored 10 times since returning for his second spell at United in August.