Should the end be nigh for Michael Carrick?

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Contribution by By Tom Pattison. Tom is a passionate Manchester United fan and occasional music blogger. Check out his blog listenwithdanger.blogspot.com

A good friend of mine with contacts at Aston Villa suggested to me today that a prospective deal for Carrick to head to Villa Park in January for around £10 million has been arranged. The deal is dependent on wages, and countless times ‘done deals’ have failed to materialise but it made me think about the situation Carrick finds himself now in at Old Trafford.

Cards on the table, I am a fan of Michael Carrick. As a great admirer of Italian football I have always valued the role of deep lying playmaker with an appreciation of space. Carrick has performed that role expertly at times as explained by Michael Cox in this feature for ZonalMarking.net. The player he has most often been compared to is Xavi Hernandez – a comparison I find deeply unfair. In the Man United squad the role closest to that in which Xavi excels undoubtedly belongs to Paul Scholes. In my view the player Carrick most closely resembles at his best is Andrea Pirlo. For me it was no surprise when Alex Ferguson paid big money to bring him from Spurs. Sir Alex had already shown a desire to play three central midfielders in Europe and Michael Carrick was the ideal candidate to form a Milan style trio alongside Darren Fletcher (Gattuso) and Owen Hargreaves (Ambrosini). Carrick’s impact has been criminally overlooked by many acolytes of the more stat-friendly Gerrard and Lampard. In his first three seasons at the club Manchester United won the Premier League three times and reached two European Cup finals. My own fondest memories of Carrick come from that debut season where his ability to exploit the movement of Louis Saha added a crucial creative element to our side. As suggested by United writer Daniel Harris in the brilliant ‘On the Road’. The decline and eventual sale of the Frenchman had a significant impact on the importance of Carrick to the team. In fact it could be argued that the rise to prominence of Rooney and acquisition of Berbatov has reduced the necessity of Carrick. Both players are happy coming off the front to create meaning the resurgent Paul Scholes has dropped deeper taking over the role for which Carrick was intended. However it would be letting Carrick off the hook to suggest these are the primary reasons for his relegation to squad player. It is a damning indictment and evidence of Carrick’s stagnation that four years on from his signing we are once again talking of the need for a replacement for the Ginger Prince. Such has been the frequency of inconsistent Carrick performances that he is in the very possible position of being moved on before the post-Scholes era even begins.

It seems unusual that given his recent return to favour – starting eight of the last nine games in all competitions – that the prospect of his departure has again been raised. I see the case for Carrick’s departure to be based on three possibilities. Firstly, the success he has enjoyed has reduced his desire to improve and he has therefore failed the Ferguson ‘hunger test’. This is difficult to judge without observing the player on a daily basis but his continued failure to impose himself against even mediocre opposition has become difficult to defend. Saturday’s game against Aston Villa – though far from a poor performance personally – was yet another case of Fletcher overshadowing him as he drove the team towards a fight back whilst Carrick remained passive to the point of anonymity. Secondly, the tactical vision for the latest team is no longer complimentary to Carrick’s style. Marcelo Lippi reinvented Andrea Pirlo albeit briefly as a fantasista for the Azurri. Ferguson experimented at times last year with playing Carrick in a more advanced role behind the striker but Carrick was given little opportunity to adapt to the role before the experiment was shelved. He seems to have fallen behind even Park in the pecking order for this berth suggesting again that Carrick has failed the audition. A lack of creative attacking drive from central areas was again painfully exposed at Eastlands last week and it is this area that requires attention most urgently if United are to regain their place as one of the continent’s most dangerous teams. The third reason is closely connected to the second – time is running out to receive a good price for Carrick when Ferguson wants to refresh his midfield dynamics. Fletcher has undoubtedly emerged as the heartbeat of the new Manchester United and his place is no longer in doubt. Anderson has so far failed to assert his claims but given his age and the large initial outlay on him the Brazilian would seem a less sensible departure than Carrick. Hargreaves is without any resale value and represents nothing more than a bonus should he achieve any sort of meaningful recovery. The jury is out on ‘hotshot’ Darron Gibson but even if he were to be sold the fee would not negate the need to raise the necessary funds to rebuild. Steven Defour and other creative attacking midfielders have consistently been linked with the club yet Ferguson (and the Glazers!) may feel the time is right to promote youth and put faith in Eikrem and Cleverley to stake their claim to be first team players. In financial terms (and how sick are we of them by now!) Carrick is a diminishing asset and should rumoured offers be anywhere near the mooted £10 million mark it would be extremely difficult to turn down.

As I stated at the start of this blog, I am an admirer of Carrick but even I cannot fault the logic of ushering him towards the exit door should a credible offer be received. I suspect not all fans will be sorry to see him go which is unfair given the achievements during his time at the club. The perma-crocked Hargreaves has attained hero status whilst an infinitely more reliable performer has never received the same level of warmth from the fans. An under-stated, undervalued performer I will miss him, but with a heavy heart I fully support any decision to let him go.

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16 Comments

  1. Carrick? No thanks. He was thoroughly outplayed by our 7th and 8th choice central midfielders yesterday. Overpriced (transfer fee and wages), overrated. Silly rumor really.

  2. ‘Are you seriously trying to compare Michael Carrick with Andrea Pirlo, or are you just having a laugh?’

    As the article states Carrick was bought with a view to operating in the style of Pirlo. The Pirlo/Ambro/Gattuso blueprint has often been highlighted as the model for the modern midfield three. I believe Ferguson envisaged Carrick playing a similar role for United. I don’t believe Carrick has a comparable talent to Pirlo but the role he was touted for in the team bore resemblance to that which Andrea operated for Milan.

    ‘Carrick? No thanks. He was thoroughly outplayed by our 7th and 8th choice central midfielders yesterday. Overpriced (transfer fee and wages), overrated. Silly rumor really.’

    I wouldn’t disagree with you. The source is a web editor for a leading sports monthly who used to be a journalist on a leading football website. I am not saying it will definitely happen but that the rumour got me thinking about the position of Carrick at Manchester United. I thought Bannan in particular was magnificent yesterday and has a very bright future.

  3. Thanks for the balanced views. Reflects my position on Carrick. I feel he is a great player for a particular formation, but not great at adapting himself or learning new tricks. Also, he is currently low on confidence & it is showing in his game. A move to a team where he could be the deep-lying pivot could revive his game & I would wish him well if he secured such a move.

  4. Tom good article, there certainly are question marks over the consistency in his performances. As I refer to here however (https://www.stretfordendarising.com/2010/11/05/michael-carrick-midfield-genius/) I do feel he has been harshly judged given a) the tactical instruction he has been asked to execute and b) his long-term achilles problem that he was suffering with last term.

    I personally hope he can continue present form and start to dominate games like we know he can do. A replacement for Scholes (or attacking ‘8’) however is required; Am still regretting Oezil’s choice of club – think he would have been the answer to our midfield worries, and certainly able to compliment Fletcher and Carrick …

  5. Carrick is a liability… I’ve always thought that about him. Yet another bad decision by Fergie in the transfer market, and I’m a United fan. Carrick was to blame for the second Villa goal, if you watch the replay he just casually strolled back not picking up a man (the player that delivered the cross for Albrighton). If he’d track that player he would not have got his cross in. I can’t stand Carrick, I really can’t!! So if we can get £10m for him then that’ll dink dank doo for me!!

  6. Danny Salford Red on

    Two words spring to mind. WATER and CARRIER. And before anyone starts no every team does not need someone in their team that has little or no efffect on games either going forward or defending. Really not sure what the bloke does.

  7. @Tom Pattison

    Nice article! Would you be so kind as to compose similar articles on other United players? Mainly about the ones who are seemingly not fitting into the team and the playing system any longer.
    I’d be glad to read your review about Anderson, Berba, Macheda, Gibson etc or even a life without Rooney.

  8. Whilst I do not deny that Carrick is a quality player, his skills only seem to come to the fore when the whole team is playing well.

    He is horribly laidback and gets caught in possession far too often. I have countless examples of his lackadaisical attitude directly resulting in team failures… the main ones that spring to mind being his failure to score a tap in during the 2008 FA Cup quarter final final against Portsmouth when he had a 2 yard headstart against the defender in a 5 yard race and both of the goals conceded in last year’s Champions League quarter-final second leg (first goal – shrugged off the ball by a pint-sized Olic, second goal – caught in possession for the attack which led to the corner from which Bayern score).

    On Saturday, his passing was woeful and that tentative side-footed strike in the 90th minute was ridiculous.

    It is definitely time for him to move on.

  9. There’s five minutes of my life I’ll never get back!

    Some of your claims are, quite frankly, rather ridiculous. Who ever heard of comparisons to Xavi – or even Perlo? I trawl through literally dozens of different news sources, 2 – 3 time a day, looking for for information and updates on United, and I can assure you, in all the time Carrick has been at Old Trafford I’ve NEVER come across a single reference to a Xavi comparison, let alone your claim to it being a regular topic. As most people would be aware, the only time Xavi’s name comes up is in reference to the midfield master class he and Iniesta delivered to Carrick a couple of seasons ago in the CL final.

    As for your other assertions, please! What dross, padded out to look like some kind of seriously thought out scholarship on football and tactics in general, particularly with the laughable reference to the partnership with Saha.

    Carrick’s presence at United, even his role during the three winning seasons, would hardly have been of note had it not been for the injury and long term absence of Hargreaves. Had it not been for the Canadian’s chronic knee injuries it’s highly likely Carrick’s role at United would have been nothing more significant that that of a glorified bench warmer, playing second banana behind the Hargreaves/Fletcher axis in the holding roles, and on the fringes of the attacking midfield role behind Scholes and arguably Anderson.

    Carrick has never blossomed in the manner expected, and all the talk of the unsung hero quietly pulling the strings is simply hogwash. I could count on one hand the amount of times I’ve seen the man stamp some authority and class on a game of importance against quality opposition – the game in Rome a few seasons back is a case in point. Far too often, he simply becomes an anonymous figure in such games, scrabbling in defense, allowing the other team to dominate the engine room, and firing meaningless passes backwards or sideways out of harms way.

    I hope the sale goes through, as your ‘friend’ in high places suggested, but only if the money is intended to find a midfield replacement. United has been bereft of any real class there for quite some time and has badly needed bolstering in the area for the last few seasons. Poor as Carrick has been, he is at least serviceable, particularly of late, which is something that can’t be said of others (Gibson, Anderson, even Giggs). That United continue to rely on the aging legs of Scholes to pull the strings is not so much a testament to his longevity as it is to the lack of any real talent coming through to push him aside.

    As for your reference to United’s preference for playing a three man midfield in important games, it is not so much a tactic as it is sheer necessity born of the team’s lack of potency in the engine room and the need to shore it up by placing another body in the area. Only problem is that by doing so it exposes United’s other weakness, which is that Wayne Rooney has neither the physique, strength, agility, or technique to play effectively as a solo striker. But that’s another story.

    Finally, your point about Hargreaves being elevated to hero status is laughable. Virtually everyone is so sick and tired of the ongoing saga regarding his knees, the numerous aborted comebacks, the misleading information handed out on his rehabilitation, the stories of mental blocks standing in his way, and so on, that it would be safe to say that the vast majority have ceased hoping or caring after so many false dawns. Pity for the man, and for his long-suffering manager who has stood by him all this time, I could understand. But hero status? I have yet to hear anyone mutter anything approximating such a description. Did you get the idea from a few worthy fans clapping him off after his recent hamstring injury?

  10. he suck on saturday but was really really good against wolves and the match before,ok wolves wasnt chelsea or arsenal but we win 2 1,wait a few games more,and then if need to sell,but i would rather see eikrem take his place.

  11. Timbo your feedback is appreciated, and almost as long as the original blog. I’m not looking to court favour merely express my views. I’m pleased to see it has encouraged you to share yours although if you’ll forgive me I might not put your comments on any cv were I to look at writing as a profession!

  12. Delighted to see Carrick raising his game recently. Still a little inconsistent (really poor against Wigan) but he relies on the movement on those around him. Rangers and the first half I’ve just watched against Blackburn was a return to his best. Let’s hope he maintains it – I would love to eat my words on supporting his departure.

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