May 1995, a month I remember vividly as being one of the worst in my childhood.
As a ten year old lad I saw my beloved United not only lose the Premiership crown to what can only be described as the poorest ever Premier League winners, Blackburn, but I was also taken on a day trip to Wembley to witness a gutless display in a 1-0 defeat to a mid table Everton side which ended with Peter Schmeichel taking a slow walk back to his goal having gone up for a corner in the 93rd minute – many said he was injured and could not run back, personally I believe he had thrown the towel in.
The previous seasons, in contrast, were the beginning of this supreme dominance Manchester United have had over the opposition in the top flight of English football – but with everything, to continue success you need to make positive changes – tough decisions are made and superstars come and go.
Speaking of superstars: Paul Ince – the self proclaimed Guv’nor, the tough tackling midfielder, and fully fledged international and the heartbeat of a United team which had won two Premier League titles in previous seasons was like marmite – many disliked his cocky attitude and possibly somewhat arrogant traits such as not putting his United shirt on until he was on the field – was it a good omen to remain topless until out of the tunnel? Or did he simply want to be recognised as the main man? In his defence, he did the job in hand, many of us loved him as he really gave bite to our midfield; he made over 200 appearances for our club and the bottom line is, nobody can ever doubt he was a tremendous footballer.
So I ask, was it the right time for Ince to be moved on? He certainly wasn’t past his sell by date as he went for £7.5m which was a big fee in the mid 90s, he played for a massive side in Italy which at the time was by far the superior league in Europe, and even two years after this move, he came back to England and done a job for Liverpool.
I see major similarities between Paul Ince and Michael Carrick. Not as footballers, not as people, but certainly as where they are in their career.
Carrick has been at Manchester United for five years, has played many games and picked up many medals. He possesses great vision and a passing range that is rivalled by few, if anybody, in this country – however as a club moving forward, where does he fit in?
As established above, a professional footballer does not need to be past his best to be moved on, so what does this mean for Carrick? Had Paul Ince stayed at Manchester United in the summer of ‘95 I can only imagine he would have picked up a couple more FA Cup and Premier League winners medals, but more importantly where would this have left the likes of Paul Scholes, Roy Keane, David Beckham and Nicky Butt? Ince was moved on not because of his own ability, but because Ferguson needed to do what was right for the club for the next 15 years. With the Guv’nor no longer the main man running the show, Roy Keane, no longer in the shadow of Ince had the opportunity to express himself and show exactly what type of leader and midfield warrior he could be…. Didn’t turn out to bad did he?
I believe if Carrick moves on this summer, it will not be because he is a bad footballer, it will not be because he cannot cut it at the top, no doubt he could secure a big money move to London or abroad – but none the less I think it will be to provide room for the likes of Anderson to grow into a midfield playmaker role, for the likes of Cleverley and Pogba to be given more time with the first team and ultimately for the future of Manchester United.