Date:15th September 2011 at 12:30pm
Written by:

The victim of scapegoatism?

It seems the common trend nowadays for a large number of Manchester United fans on social networking sites (ie twitter) is to criticise players when we fail to win or fail to win by at least a 3 goal margin.  And the blame always falls on the few individuals who had once upon a time hit a bad patch of form which lives in the memory long term and suddenly makes them the worst player in Manchester United history and unfit to wear the shirt ever again. 

I suppose by now you’ve figured out which players I’m talking about as I’m sure most of you have either witnessed or joined in with the ‘Carrick,’ ‘Evans’ or ‘Gibson’ bashing after we fail to win. After Manchester United’s 1-1 away draw to Benfica, surprise surprise, the critics came out in force and who was to blame for the failure to win? Mainly Carrick with a hint of Evans. Personally I felt that, although they did not have a stormer, they didn’t play particularly bad either. In fact I thought both of them were amongst our better performers on the night. Both were very assured on the ball, displayed by the 86 passes Carrick made and the 92% completion rate and Jonny Evans’ 58 passes and 98% completion rate.

Michael Carrick also made 8 interceptions against Benfica and 4 tackles. It could be argued that he was in fact our best player on the night, yet as expected, the Carrick haters came out in force. Some comments sent to me when defending Carrick on twitter:

“Passing sideways, backwards, to opposing players, NO PACE & contributing sod all going forward, is why many fans hate Carrick.”

“That’s because both of them are s*** the whole midfield tonight was shit and not one of them should play for united again.”

“Carrick is f***in pony.”

“How many passes did carrick make that actually did anything? He was s***e nowhere near best player that goes to Giggs & anders.”

“This doesn’t mean anything when your passing is without taking any risks,he passed sideways,and back,no offensive passes… carrick is really useless,he does nothing,can’t defend,and can’t attack,he passes the ball and never ask it back,TC (Tom Cleverley) any day.”

“Michael Carrick is STILL s***e.”

“We all watched the game. Carrick sucked. period.”

“Best #Mufc performers last night were A. Lindergaard. P. Evra. C Smaling. R. Giggs. Worst was M. Carrick and J. Evens.”

“Carrick is just not United material.”

Michael Carrick in his new role

The above image shows the position that Michael Carrick now regularly operates in. It is a much deeper role than any other midfielder at Manchester United plays in. Michael Carrick doesn’t go forward often, he chooses, or is more likely instructed by the manager, to sit deep and limit the opportunities in which he goes forwards. Tactically this kind of position has to be a disciplined one. He “contibutes sod all going forward.” I think from his position, he isn’t directly supposed to.

If Michael Carrick loses the ball from such a position attempting to complete a risky pass which is unlikely to actually reach it’s destination then possession is lost cheaply and it may also eventually lead to a chance on goal for the opposing team. Regardless, Michael Carrick did in fact attempt 14 long passes last night against Benfica and completed 12 of them, a stat that was very noticeable as he often switched the play to the other side of the pitch.

Now as the passing chalkboard for Michael Carrick v Benfica isn’t readily available at my disposal, I shall instead use his chalkboard from the Bolton v Manchester United game from last Saturday.

The chalkboard itself highlights the area in which Michael Carrick currently plays in with most of his passes being made from deep. It was a role in which I felt bought out the best in Anderson who had the freedom to do almost anything he wanted in the midfield. That match he attempted 51 passes and completed 46, which is a completion rate of 90%. Here is a breakdown of his passing stats: (Completed/Attempted). Backward: (17/17), Square (or sideways as people like to call it): (10/11). Forward: (19/23). It’s clear to see why Michael Carrick is known for his lack of passes forward(!). Note that this is the only league game that he has played in so far this season.

The league game that he played in before Bolton away was Blackburn away last season. That day Michael Carrick attempted 108 passes and completed 97 of them which is a completion rate, again, of 90%.

A breakdown of his stats from that day: Backward: (20/20). Square: (30/32). FORWARD: (47/56). A clear conclusion from the stats of both of these games would be that this “Carrick only passes backwards and sideways” mindset of some fans is just a pure and simple myth. If that can’t convince you, Michael Carrick also completed more forward passes in last season’s Champions League than Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta. Michael Carrick made 417, Andres Iniesta made 384. That stat does it for me.

So why do people single out and make a scapegoat out of one or two players? I can’t really say for sure since I’m not someone who does that sort of thing. The direct criticism of one player for an overall below par team performance is just wrong in itself. It seems to me that people are just jumping on the bandwagon, that it has somehow become fashionable to blame the same players over and over again because that player started ahead of or isn’t really their favourite. Nevertheless, the blame of the same player every time Man Utd fail to win is wholly unwarranted.

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