Date: 16th March 2011 at 3:54am
Written by:
Michael Carrick

Only Darron Gibson seems a less popular face at Old Trafford

When did sideways passes that retain possession and bring others into the game become such a despicable thing?

Isn’t it better to play the ball sideways to a team mate than hoof it forward and hope it finds somebody?

Isn’t it better to win the ball through good positioning and solid tactical play than to launch yourself into last ditch tackles because you were caught out in the first place? Because from what I can tell most of the justification for the “ isn’t good enough for United” chat that seems to have started doing the rounds is based upon Carrick not making bone crunching tackles that risk a red card, and he’s not pinging and endless stream of passes up field. Well boo hoo.

Carrick has been given a far more defensive role by SAF this year, something that seems to be lost on fans when they laud the contribution of the defence in our quest for trophies whilst at the same time slating Carrick. His shielding has been a massive, massive part of the success enjoyed so far this season and you only have to look at how much more fragile we look when he isn’t playing to realise that what Carrick does is quietly, and unspectacularly mop up anything that looks like it might threaten one of the most precious commodities in football – the clean sheet.

Carrick’s entire game is based around positioning, placing himself where the ball is going to go. Anticipating attacks and making sure that they don’t come to fruition, tracking the runners that need tracking, cutting out passes that could find their man, closing down angles, forcing the opposition to play the ball where United want them to play it, and not where they want to be putting it. Frankly, if Carrick was flying into sliding tackles it would give you a fair indication that he wasn’t doing his job properly. Claude Makelele is one of the more recently lauded exponents of this style of play and he didn’t need to be a blood and thunder player, he just did what he did exceptionally well and, do you know something, I don’t really remember him having half the passing range that Carrick possesses.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Carrick is on the same level as Claude, or that he is the answer to all of United fan’s hopes and prayers. I still think that we need another player in the Hargreaves mould, a tenacious, energetic destroyer. But considering United signed two £18m English midfielders within a year of each other, and one has been involved in 143 of the 181 Premier League games since his signing – resulting in 3 titles in 4 years and a very good shot at 4 in 5, whilst the other has played 27 games in their 3 and a half years, it’s a little surprising that it’s Owen Hargreaves who has the fans adoration, whilst Carrick is berated for every minor error. The kind of error that Darren Fletcher is easily forgiven.

Continued on page two.