When Michael Carrick first came to Manchester United, there was a lot of criticism. He couldn’t tackle or shoot, and we didn’t need a short-passer to replace the midfield general that was Roy Keane. And wasn’t 18m too much for a passing midfielder who couldn’t do much else?
In 8 months (September to April), Michael Carrick has answered his critics, and then some. Here’s a look at 11 iron-clad reasons why this man is every bit a Manchester United legend in the making.
1. He is as good a passer as Paul Scholes.
Carrick has an extraordinary range of passing – he plays the short passes with near perfection, and he consistently finds gaps and the front strikers in good positions. He brings a stability to United’s fluid pass and attack game and at 25, he’ll be around for at least 6-7 years. Long-term quality, I tell you.
2. He is one of the better defensive midfielders in the Premiership
Yes, he doesn’t tackle, but that’s because his defensive game is based on not committing and ensuring that the ball stays away from the defense. He routinely shepherds the ball out to the flanks in an attempt to prevent any direct attacks to United’s goal.
And contrary to popular opinion that was prevalent at the time of his move, he does not need a hard-man running next to him to help him out in midfield. Although Hargreaves won’t hurt.
3. His attacking play is extremely under-rated
Ferguson almost never allows Carrick to have the freedom to roam. When he does get the chance, like he did against Sheffield United, Carrick was all over the place, popping up on the left and right flanks as well as making runs in the box. He can, if he plays in the position Scholesy plays in, regularly get 10+ goals each season. What more can you ask from a central midfielder who can’t shoot?
See for yourself
4. In less than a season he’s become the heart of United’s midfield
Manchester United’s fluid passing game has won them many admirers this season, and a lot of credit for that goes to the hard-working, unassuming Michael Carrick. He sits back, connects the moves, threads passes through to start counter-attacks, all the while letting more ‘flashy’ team mates take the limelight with the runs and the goals.
Take him out, and United’s fast game will suffer, and you’d probably see United lose possession a lot more in midfield.
Keeps possession, connects the team, etc etc, you get the picture.
5. He’s only 25
And he’s already good. And as you’ll see in the next point, he’s always willing to improve. Considering that he’s already focused on the long-term impact of his game (his strengths are those attributes and skills that players rely on more and more as they age – passing, timing, positioning, finishing, etc), in a couple of years he will have easily filled that big #16 shirt.
6. He’s humble AND ambitious
Humble enough that he gives others credit first and always passes instead of shooting (someone has to tell him to stop doing that) and he knows what his faults are. Ambitious enough that he is always striving to improve his game and be the best, and we’ve seen that in his game throughout the season as he’s turned from a guy who couldn’t shoot to a guy who scores good goals from long-range.
Speaking of which…
7. He scores amazing goals
And he’d score more of them if he was pushed slightly forward instead of having to sit back and cover the defence.
Don’t believe me? I thought you might not.
Here’s a look at a few of Carrick’s goals this season:
Carrick 1 (Roma)
Carrick 2 (Roma again)
Carrick 3 (Slide-rule shot, passed through the defence into goal)
Carrick 4 (poor quality, but again outside the box)
Carrick 5 🙂
8. His West Ham background
He comes from a group of very talented players who played together at West Ham. Lampard, Joe Cole, and Defoe are, like Carrick, players who would be regular starters for any of the top 4 Premiership sides. Like a similar group of talented kids from the last decade, this bunch looks to be very good as well.
9. Alex Ferguson and the #16 shirt
Ferguson, for my money, judges players to perfection when he gives them ‘special’ numbers. Ronaldo got Beckham’s #7 and after a promising first couple of years he is fulfilling (some would say exceeding) the expectations that come from wearing that shirt.
Roy Keane is a tough act to follow, but Ferguson’s eye for talent is amongst the best in the world and he knows the importance of the #16 shirt to the fans – if he thinks Carrick is up to it, it’s hard to disagree with him.
10. His dead-ball skills
His free-kicks and corners are usually top-notch, although unlike Ronaldo he doesn’t go for goal, preferring instead to provide assists. And with his passing ability, those are near-Beckham-esque in their quality.
11. His days at Tottenham
An excellent compilation of Carrick’s previous season (his last at Tottenham) shows exactly why he was so highly regarded at Spurs and why they were so reluctant to let him go. Given time at United, Carrick can dominate United’s midfield the same way he did Tottenham’s, and when that starts happening you will see a very dangerous United.