Date: 25th April 2011 at 8:11pm
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The man that makes United tick?

The key to football is having the ball. It may seem an obvious statement but one that is understated by many. Barcelona are the masters of it and success comes as a result.

If you keep the ball then you create chances, score goals and, most importantly, don’t concede. If you do this well then you win a football match.

To have a good football team, you need players who are capable of passing the ball to a player in the same colour. Whether it’s three-yards backwards or a 40-yard wonder ball, keeping the ball ultimately wins you matches.

It is a trait which Michael Carrick is very good at. The Englishmen has been a vital part of Manchester United’s trophy machine for the past five seasons, playing 143 times since his move from Tottenham in 2006.

There can be no doubt that he was one of many reasons why United won the league three times in a row between 2006 and 2009, his superb range of passing creating many goal scoring opportunities.

Since then, though, Carrick has played in a different role. It was a move forced upon Sir Alex by the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the best player in the world, and Carlos Tevez in the summer of 2009.

But what hasn’t changed is the quality he brings to the side, it may not be as obvious but just as important as before.

Carrick’s job now is to sit in front of the back four, break up moves and begin an attack for his own team. It’s something which he excels at but is yet criticised by many observers.

Perhaps the stats will explain why he is considered such a valuable member of the team. Not only does he boast the highest amount of interceptions a game at 4.38 but he also has the highest pass success ratio of any starting regular in the league having completed 780 out of 898 attempted passes, in other words 86.9%.

Now, they’re pretty impressive stats by anyones standards but it won’t satisfy some people. The main criticism of Carrick is that, although he passes well, he only passes it backwards or 3 yards.

Not only is this view reactionary but it also comes back to what I stated earlier. Football is all about keeping the ball, it is vital in the modern game. Passing the ball to defenders and fellow midfielders is what you do in order to start moves.

There’s no point of picking the ball up in your own half and then attempting a 40-yard pass which will more than likely fail. Why not keep your composure and simply slide it a few yards to your left or right and slowly create an attack.

Anyway, this view of Carrick is simply not true. Take a look at these graphics below from the Champions League match with Marseille. The chart on the left is particularly interesting as it shows that Carrick completed four out of seven ‘long’ passes and 30 ‘medium’ range passes.

You can also see that from the graphic on the right, Carrick is very willing to play the ball to the wide men, thus allowing for an attack to build.

Another criticism of Carrick is that he’s not very mobile and stays central. Well again this is simply not true. On Tuesday, he travelled the most distance than any other player on the pitch, 11.5k, emphasizing his superior fitness and desire to succeed.

Add to this that Carrick is very disciplined, having not picked up a single yellow card all season, and you have the complete defensive midfielder. Yes, he may not be as directly involved in goal scoring opportunities as he was in previous years but he is just as important, perhaps more, in his new role.

Maybe a fourth league title in five years since he joined United will convince fans that he is an integral part of the side and will be for years to come.


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24 responses to “The Taken-For-Granted Brilliance of Michael Carrick”

  1. Becky says:

    I admittedly give Carrick alot of slag. But thats just because I want consistency from him. I think what most Utd fans want is a Xavi-esque player who plays all over the field and basically does everyones job in the midfield. However Carrick is not that type of player. He starts plays and allows the others to finish them . Thats his job and I think he does it pretty well. All I want now is consistency from him.

  2. seun olufoye says:

    u obviously refused to mention that essien has scored this season and he does have a number of assists. How many caps does carrick have 4 england? We dnt have to sign xavi or iniesta b4 we get proper midfielders but surely there must be at least 20 other midfielder7 in europe alone who are better than carrick. If he is a pass master then i am a goal machine.

    • BW says:

      England play “kick and rush” style, that’s why Carrick doesn’t play for them.

      What Capello should have done is built the team around Carrick, like Bobby Robson eventually did with Glenn Hoddle in the 1986 World Cup.

      But I think Capello’s too stubborn to admit he was wrong about Carrick. Perhaps you are too?

  3. seun olufoye says:

    if van der sar has 1 assist this season, then i dnt think i’m askin for 2 from ‘the passmaster’ extraordinaire to give me an assist. Its not 4bidden for dms to have assists my friend or goals 4 that matter

  4. Jack says:

    carrick had a tremendous game tonight and i think he can often be a better player in europe than in the league due to the way the game tend to go.

    his got his new contract and with performances like that i cant see saf letting him go

  5. BW says:

    Carrick is the best footballer at the club. Fergie knows this. The fact that he hasn’t played more for England reflects badly on England managers, not on Carrick. Capello missed a trick.

    This year, Carrick’s played considerably more minutes than any ManU player in the Champions League (stats?), every game he covers more distance than any other ManU player, racks up most completed passes (bar Scholes, when he’s playing) and makes most interceptions. Plus he’s disciplined and stays on his feet, not leaving the back four exposed. Perfect in the rokle!

    Only Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Schweinsteiger could be considered better in that role, but I’m happy with Carrick.

    The problem for ManU will be that against Barcelona or Real the opposition will target Carrick and try to deny him space. He will be under a lot more pressure than other players because he is so important to making the team tick.

    Other players need to take the responsibility and be just as willing to receive the ball in tight situations, then ManU might have a decent chance in the final.

    Carrick is good enough, but are the other players such as Park, Valencia and Giggs able to retain possession? If they share the burden ManU can beat Barca or Real.

    As Xabi Alonso said about Carrick,
    ”He reads the game so well, he is always ahead of what is going to happen and he is always in the right position. When he gets the ball, he plays it easy and he is available to his team-mates all the time. For me, he has the profile to play for Barcelona or any of the Spanish teams”

  6. Seun Olufoye says:

    He stands no chance against barcelona. He will be closed down so fast b4 u bat ur eyelids. He plays d most simple of passes. There is no difference b/w garrick and mikel obi. Lots of pass completion but usually dull 2 yard passes to terry or scholes when he’s playing. Garricks passing is hugely overated just like most things English. If carrick is a passmaster, i wonder wat u would call xavi, xabi, pirlo et al… Passgods?

    • BW says:

      We’ll see how Carrick does against Xavi in the CL final…

      This is the key battle in the game, but even if Carrick wins (and ManU win) I don’t expect Carrick to get the credit he deserves.

  7. BW says:

    It would be interesting to see Carrick’s stats for the season – passing accuracy, interceptions made, distance covered in Champion League games..

    Of course four Premier League titles in five years is not a bad stat either. Especially when the club had gone three years without winning the league when he arrived.

    This guy is the unsung MIDFIELD MAESTRO! Time for him to stick the middle finger up at Capello and retire from international football.