Date:7th April 2011 at 5:23pm
Written by:
Michael Carrick

Is time to give the former Spurs man some real credit?

With Joey Barton’s claim that he is the best English midfielder coinciding with Michael Carrick’s superb masterclass at Stamford Bridge last night, I thought that there could be a case for Michael Carrick being the best English midfielder.

To me what makes a top class midfielder is all about how well they apply themselves in the role within the tactics that they have been given to play.

Michael Carrick is a tactical player, one whose talents are sometimes sacrificed to play the extremely disciplined role that he has been given and in my opinion he applies himself to the role superbly game in game out.

From observation it seems to me that Michael Carrick’s role is to sit back and protect the defence, to slow the tempo down and help the team to control the game. When in possession his primary objective is to keep possession of the ball and to simply move the ball onto the more clinical players in our team to lead the attack.

He could not have demonstrated this much more than he did last night with his superb pass to Ryan Giggs which led to the goal and his 95% pass completion rate. He is the guy the team falls back on when an attack breaks down yet I hear calls for his head time and time again because he is not a glamour player and because he does not go forward to supplement the attack.

This lack of movement forward and this game style is clearly something that Ferguson has made him adapt. Before 2009 he was given so much more freedom to go forward and be adventurous and it is exactly this that has contributed to his downfall in popularity amongst the Old Trafford faithful.

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There are not many players in the world who plays in this role, probably Sergio Busquets is the only other player that comes to my mind. Here is an extract on ESPN Soccernet which describes Sergio Busquets’ strengths: Cool and composed, he passes the ball simply and is robust in the tackle to break up opposition attacks.

This is the exact role that I believe that Michael Carrick is given at Manchester United. It is given that there are a few times where Michael Carrick has not been particularly cool or composed however those instances have been few and far between lately. Former Tottenham boss Martin Jol said on Carrick, “Michael’s biggest quality is to move play from defence to attack and win the ball. Because of him, other players play better.”

I concede that since I have mentioned that Carrick has been given the Sergio Busquets role to play at Old Trafford it is only fair that I compare the stats of the two. Both players have played 23 league games at their respective clubs but Sergio Busquets has 1 league goal and 3 assists to his name compared to Michael Carrick’s 0 goals and 0 assists. For me this is more explainable by the different styles of the 2 clubs. Where Barcelona easily control and dominate pretty much every game they play, Manchester United does not. This makes it much easier for every player to get in on the act at Barcelona whereas this is not possible at Manchester United. Also I find that in England the clubs press a lot more making the job slightly harder for Carrick to play compared to his Spanish counterpart.

So here comes my conclusion. Michael Carrick’s role is not one that likens him to many others. Tactically his position is just not something that many teams employ. Personally I could not see a midfielder such as Wesley Sneijder playing it. The England team has been trying to use Gareth Barry in a similar kind of role. It is safe to say that he has failed miserably against the big boys. Joey Barton pointed this out when he said in his interview, “Did you see the game against Germany at the World Cup? If you watch the fourth goal, when Mesut Ozil was up against Barry, it was like the hare and the tortoise.”

Maybe this position is one that is unfamiliar to Gareth Barry since he is usually surrounded by 8 other defenders at Manchester City, but Carrick single handedly (or footedly) bosses this position and dons it time and time again and he possesses that big match experience and that winning mentality learnt at Manchester United to succeed at International level. Even though he may not be the best English midfielder, for me he should be regarded as the most important.

Tactically he plays a role that is different to all others, and he plays it exceedingly well. On the international stage I believe he would be appreciated much more since the name of the game is more about keeping possession and Michael Carrick is superb at that. So if Joey Barton considers himself as the best English midfielder, surely it can’t be too far-fetched to think the same of Michael Carrick.