Summer of 2011 witnessed two of Manchester United’s long serving servants- John O’Shea and Wes Brown leave the club for Sunderland. Many people termed this a ‘team in transformation’ showcasing more youth for the future while some labeled it as ‘suck-ups’ leaving the team. Does it come as a surprise or no but Manchester United number 16 was also considered in this category and expected to follow suit. Was this comment justified?
A graduate from West Ham youth academy, Michael Carrick started his career as a striker and also made his England debut at the tender age of 19. Though he was signed as an attacking midfielder from Tottenham for Manchester United, he has been seen to spend most of his playing minutes performing defensive duties. He is not of the Roy Keane mould with charismatic leadership nor is he a technically gifted complete midfielder like Paul Scholes. He cannot be categorized as a perfect ‘defensive midfielder’ who can fit comfortably in 4-1-2-1-2 or any formation thats suits a solid rock like Daniele De Rossi. But what he does on the field, he is the best at it in his own way and no can better him.
It is no real surprise that Carrick’s play relies primarily on tackles and interceptions, breaking up opposition attacks before playing a simple pass to begin the classic Man United counter attack. He isn’t the type of a hard tackling midfielder but prefers to read the game and position himself accordingly. If anyone has observed him during a match closely, the only word that can make me describe him is a ‘link’ or rather say a ‘dependable link’ between the defense and forward. During a recent Manchester United league match, these are some words of appreciation from the commentator-
“It takes great courage for a player to sit so deep in his own half and take the ball from his defenders and pass it on ahead with such efficiency. He (Michael Carrick) makes it look so easy.”
His abilities of ball retention and distribution have well been demonstrated during the 2011-12 season which earned him a place on the shortlist for ‘Player of the Year’ for the club alongside Johnny Evans and Antonio Valencia. There have been instances in Europe last year where it was difficult to provide a ‘connection’ between the backline and the attackers during his absence. Sadly, he has been highly criticized for his lack of playing forward balls and prefers to play it sideways or backwards, but statistics show something totally different.
Michael Carrick has made the most number of passes- 1106 bettering Yaya Toure and Mikel Arteta who are arguably Premier League’s best central midfielders. He has pass success rate of 92.1% in all competitions, comparing with the likes of Barcelona’s Xavi. After the win over West Ham, he has successful 44 forward passes, more than any player in the league this season. It won’t be surprising to know that experts have been claiming him as the ‘Premier league’s best forward passer’ this season.
“He reads the game so intelligently and protects the back four with interceptions rather than crunching challenges. I think that goes unnoticed, but he brings a lovely sort of balance to more attacking players like Rooney, Ronaldo, Scholes, Giggs, Nani and Anderson. He allows them to go on and get on with attacking,while he takes care of everything else.”
Since his arrival to the Old Trafford, he won the title in his first year, a league win for the first time in four years for Manchester United. His total commitment and dedication to the team has enormously benefited the team. But his crucial contributions have gone largely unnoticed by majority of the watchers, sadly even United supporters. It is very easy to say that you are committed and loyal to a club that has been consistently winning titles since the past two decades, but Carrick’s place in the team has never been under question. He may not be attractive or interesting to watch, but for a person like Sir Alex Ferguson to make him a crucial first team starter shows how vital his contribution is.
For one who has won 4 Premier League titles – more than his fellow England mates Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard – and numerous other honors, Carrick is a quiet, understated man. He is not on Twitter neither does he have a website or a clothing range like many other professional footballers.
“It is not me to shout the odds,” he said. “I just go about my business. I am a footballer. I am not into PR. If the boss at United picks me I am obviously doing something right and he is the main person I have to please week in, week out.
It isn’t ideal to term him as ‘under rated’ but on the other side, he does not even get recognition for his performances on the field. Match by match he goes unnoticed, content to be a silent savior of the team. He may never be considered as a club legend, but will surely be remembered as a loyal and true servant of the team in the years to come.
It is imperative for me to add that this topic has been discussed to initiate debate rather than end it. Over to you.