They say that statistics can be used to prove anything, and when you look at certain fields, — such as politics — there is clearly some degree of truth in this. Occasionally, however, you come across a set of numbers that are so damning that not even the most silver-tongued salesman could dispute their meaning.
This is certainly true in the case of Manchester United and England forward, Wayne Rooney, whose declining form and influence has become a major talking point this season. In fact, the statistics suggest that Rooney’s decline can be traced back to the beginning of last season at least, as United won 60% of their games without their skipper in 2015-16 (as opposed to just 48% with him).
Look at the Numbers: Why Michael Carrick Needs to Play for United
Despite these numbers, along with Rooney’s ever-declining influence in the final third, Portuguese manager, José Mourinho, seems committed to getting the best from his number 10 during his tenure. Clearly a man of resilience and genuine strength of character, Mourinho is not someone who is easily swayed by statistics, no matter how compelling they are. This can be largely positive in most instances, as showcasing faith in a player can help them to replicate their best form consistently.
However, such an approach also has its downsides, as we can see from the sporadic absence of Michael Carrick. A remnant from United’s glory days under Sir Alex Ferguson, Carrick provides United with a winning mentality and a genuine balance between defence and attack, while his ability on the ball has historically proved key to the Red’s best attacking displays of the last decade. He has also started eight times this season in the first team, with United remaining unbeaten in every single one and winning the first six of these games.
This is not a new phenomenon, with United boasting an incredible win rate of 72% when Carrick played during Louis van Gaal‘s first season in 2014/15. During this year, it was Carrick’s return to the side that inspired United to five straight league wins and some of the most inspiring football under the much-maligned Dutchman. He was even injured during that last of these games, with Carrick’s enforced absence triggering a run of three straight defeats for the Reds that almost scuppered their chances of claiming a place in the top-four.
The Last Word
Before we are told of the dangers of placing too much faith in numbers, it is also important to note Carrick’s influence on the pitch. He dominated the midfield in the recent win at Swansea, for example, shielding a vulnerable defence and constantly igniting attacks with incisive, forward passes. His calmness and composure also allowed Rooney and Pogba to excel in front of him, creating a balance that has been absent for much of United’s play this season.
So while Mourinho may be a stubborn and iron-willed manager with little interest in even the most striking numbers, he cannot help but have noticed how much better United are with Carrick in the team. It is certainly a lesson that he needs to learn quickly, otherwise he may find his side struggling to compete for a top-four place this season.