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 “Carrick 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.

14 responses to “The Misguided Scapegoating Of Michael Carrick”

  1. red devil says:

    carrick doesnt get the ball enough and when he does he either loses it or its a misplaced pass , he has been good awful this season terrible infact and wasnt great last season either thats why he was warming the bench for many of the games , he won a few titles fair enough but we had ronaldo to thank for that not carrick , how he got another contract is beyond me , gibson just as bad and i dont think scholes should be starting games either as great as he is mistakes are starting to creep into his game alot lately ,

  2. fido says:

    If you think Carrick is such a good player why hasn’t he been playing for England. Your standards are low. Just because we are top of the league doesn’t mean he is doing well. Ferguson knows that. Carrick is a decent player but he has gone backwards. I just feel he is one of those players that can’t handle the big stage or a big club. Hopefully he won’t be available if we progress in the Champions league and meet a team like Barcelona, Inter or Madrid. Chealsea? He tends to do well against them, mainly because they don’t put pressure on him. I don’t know why people go about how composed he is on the ball. He is just languid, not composed. Under little pressure he loses the ball easily. He is not that good of a passer either, that is one of the reasons why he’s roll changed. Too many misplaced passes to the wingers and forwards. I am sure you recall the Final against Barcelona. All his weaknesses were exposed. He just can’t step up. For some reason he was a better passer in his previous club. He just seems too “shy” playing for Manchester United. He being exposed now that Scholes is getting older. He can’t hide in his shadows anymore. I am sure if we keep him longer, he is only be a squad player

  3. red ali says:

    Thank you for a truly sensible read.

    I have been saying the same for a long time now. Carrick is THE defensive midfielder, Scholes, Fletcher, Anderson, Giggs, Gibson do not and cannot play that role. Hargraves could but cat get fit.

  4. tom says:

    I know you are trying very hard to defend him and i laud you for it. Frankly, it gives me no pleasure to also criticise any player of a team i adore. However,Carrick’s performances this season have been woeful. I remember Keano grabbing Rio by the collar at Rio’s first training session with the team for passing sideways. And Rio’s a defender! The bigger shock was Michael was given (rewarded) with a new contract this year. You must not forget that every player must add value to our team and not just pedestrian their way through games. On this analysis, Bebe, Obertan and Carrick should be on their way soon. Lets not start having the Scouser mentality where one youth coach was recently quoted as saying, “it’s not about trophies for us”. Carrick has been here for a sufficient time and he has not stepped up. Let’s not be also rans in Europe again. The tragic thing is that Carrick has the build and awakward gait of Kaka but thats about it. The ither tragedy is after bad performances and results MUTV or the official website always seem to get quotes from Michael himself as to “we should do better” “we will be better”. The irony is he is usually one of the poorer players after such games.

    • Hayd says:

      I don’t think I’ve ever, ever had a mentality of “it’s not about trophies” and considering the success United have had with Carrick in the team (in the team is key term here – I’m not saying purely because of Carrick) I don’t think it’s fair to say that Carrick equals no trophies or ambitions. When you say also rans in Europe, United were unlucky to go out last year, they got beaten by the best team in the World, one of the best that anyone has ever seen in one Final and won another. Winning the CL was massive, getting to a second consecutive final was also a great achievement, to belittle it because we lost is harsh, Barcelona are a fantastic team and there is no shame in losing to a midfield that boasts Xavi, Iniesta and Messi – 1,2,3 in the ballon d’or. Let’s not forget that Real Madrid have spent almost £300m in 2 seasons and still lost 5-0 to an almost identical Barcelona team. That was with Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso – the player everyone wishes Carrick was, and many more, with only Higuain missing from Real’s first choice line up. I’m not saying we should bend over and take it from Barca, if Arsenal can run them close then we can beat them, I just think some perspective is needed when slating Carrick for one performance.

  5. jack says:

    Im not scapegoating him at all but the reality is hes very average when under pressure. He always passes it backwards or sideways to players under pressure. Its ok doing it quickly to men in space but he slows our play down constantly. Hes got no ability to grab hold of the game, and if he sees any opposition players around him he will just pass it back to the keeper expecting him to hoof it. Give carrick time and hel look like zidane but close him down and he gets found out every time. Off the ball his positioning is excellent, however he still gets exposed because hes too slow and anyone with dribbling ability or pace just waltzes past him way too easily. Good squad players yes, top class, definitely not.

    • Hayd says:

      You make a really good point when you mention how much pressure Carrick gets put under. In the Premier League midfielders are pressed by opposition teams further and further up the pitch than ever before with teams playing very high tempos and agressively pressing all over the pitch. That’s why when you take a player like Poulson from Serie A where he looked a decent player, and then put him in the Liverpool line up he looks awful. Carrick doesn’t dribble past players, he plays it backwards and sideways sometimes yes, but I’d rather he did that than try to go on solo runs from the back, get caught out and we concede. I’d rather he pass backwards and we move the ball wide, or play triangles out than just hoof it up field and invite the pressure back on. I think Valencia is a massive player for us as an outlet from defence as well, having two wingers to hit with diagonals as well as the pace of Hernandez and Rooney coming back to form will result in a more attacking United I think and Carrick will benefit too.

  6. Chudi says:

    My only problem with Carrick is how he reacts under pressure.

    It’s easy to rattle him and cause him to lose the ball whilst other midfielders can retain the ball under pressure, (Scholes and Xavi are prime examples but there are World Class so perhaps a bit unfair to compare).

    The problem is that we know what he can do in a more offensive role in terms of his passing (he played a peach of a ball to Ronaldo against Newcastle in the 07/08 that should be included on every passing instructional DVD) but as you said he has been employed in a more defensive role so he isn’t capable of doing these things.

    I see nothing wrong with him being functional in the position he plays and our defensive displays are in part down to him so perhaps we as fans should lay off!

    • Hayd says:

      Agree with you mostly here mate, in a more offensive role he has a lovely range of passing. I think you’ll see more of that from deep with Valencia back as well, we’ve offered very little width this season compared to normal and Berbatov is hardly a ball over the top forward so it really does reduce the number of long passes that United have played this season. As you say, Scholes and Xavi both better at it, but they are best of generations.

      My pain point with Carrick isn’t that he is World Class, because he’s clearly not, but he’s a very good player who doesn’t deserve the stick that he gets. To find a better midfielder than Carrick would cost us £20m and that player might not even work out. Carrick is a great squad player and I think he’s well worth a place in the first team most of the time.

  7. Charlie says:

    Very nice,sensible piece offering sanity amongst the typically overblown hysteria that surrounds players who are perceived to do nothing at all.
    Fans crave Hollywood passes, the type that Steven Gerrard consistently hits into the river Mersey, that get gasps of wonderment from the adoring crowd but actually offer very little, and more often than not result in a loss of possession. Whereas the thunderous challenges as highlighted simply result in needless bookings.
    Carrick is merely fulfilling a role, and a role that has very little return in terms of glory.
    The same in fact was said of Hargreaves until it was pointed out that he was a defensive midfield player and as a result wasn’t going to score 20 goals a season.

  8. Red Ben says:

    I agree entirely – the level of Carrick bashing that’s going on is incredible considering how Carrick has been one of our most important players this season. Unfortunately, it seems any midfielder that isn’t Scholes or Ronaldo is forever doomed to this type of talk.