Date: 12th April 2012 at 1:09am
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Arguably his best ever season, but has he been United's best player?

Arguably his best ever season, but has he been United's best player?

It’s that time of the year where we decide our player of the season, here at Red Flag Flying High, our various writers have different opinions on who deserves the accolade of ‘United’s Player of the Season.’ Here’s Hayden’s on why it should be the man who can longer be considered an ‘unsung hero’ as he’s finally gotten the recognition he deserves. Whether you agree or not you can cast your vote at the poll at the foot of this article. 

“I can’t see why people have problems with Michael Carrick… I found him brilliant to play with He is not a flashy person or a flashy player but he has great talent. He has great mental concentration. He reads the game so well. He is a dream for any attacking midfielder to play with. He is like a Rolls Royce.” – Paul Scholes

When Paul Scholes calls you a Rolls Royce footballer then you’ve basically made it, because praise doesn’t get any higher than that. Not that Michael Carrick will be that bothered about getting praise, because whilst it’s nice, he’s not really the show pony type, he just quietly gets on with it – remind you of anyone? I jest, Carrick isn’t Paul Scholes, and it’s doing him a disservice to compare the two, but before I go on to tell you why I think Michael Carrick should be United’s player of the season. Consider all the hoopla over at Wastelands, all the preening and shouting, the fighting, squabbling, blabbing to the media and general attempts to be the hero whilst not actually having the guts to create get on the ball and do something with it. Now compare and contrast to a man who just steadily keeps United ticking, stays quiet in the wake of a fantastic patch of form and who plods on towards a fifth title in six years with United.

That’s right, five titles in six years, and whilst the challenge of Arsenal has generally weakened since the days of Keane and Scholes, Chelsea have been and gone, Liverpool had a flash in the pan, City have thrown money around like a Bond villain, and Ronaldo has been sold. But still United keep winning. It’s odd, don’t you think, that in that winning run, a player so crucial in the way that the team changes cycles from defence to attack can be considered so average? There are people in actual management of a national team who think that Gareth Barry is more worthy of a place. I guess that’s what is so brilliant about Michael Carrick, he just blends in, unless you’re looking out for him, his contribution can pass you by. He doesn’t storm up the pitch (apart from that run against QPR), he doesn’t hit pointless glamour balls (his long passing is actually pretty outstanding, but he plays the percentages) and he doesn’t thunder into tackles, 0.6 fouls per game for a midfielder who makes more tackles per game (2.9) than Gareth Barry (2.4) or Phil Jones (2.1) is beyond outstanding, and means that when he’s fit, he plays, because he doesn’t have suspensions to worry about (5 yellow cards in 39 appearances in all competitions. Carrick’s record is hardly a bad output when you consider that Balotelli could have been booked 5 times in one match).

“Intercepting is far more effective than tackling. It’s not as flashy, so often if goes unnoticed. Michael Carrick hardly ever launches into a slide tackle or gets involved in a physical battle. That lands him some stick. But his stats for interceptions are off the chart.” – Rio Ferdinand

Now, as one of the classiest defenders of his generation, Rio Ferdinand is probably in a position to comment, and it’s telling that United defenders all have nothing but love for Michael Carrick, it’s telling because their job becomes so much easier when he plays. Carrick doesn’t often venture forward, something that casual observer uses as a stick to beat him with, but he very rarely gets caught out of position, the two might be linked, but you wouldn’t think that from how infrequently the second is mentioned. When Carrick drove down the pitch to score against QPR, after the game SAF joked that he should fine Carrick for being so far forward, and this comment sums up Carrick’s role in the team, he’s there to stick while the rest of the team twists, he’s the hedge bet.

Some people have pointed out that Carrick has shone more since Scholes has returned, as if that is something to hold over him, that baffles me. If your game doesn’t improve by even 1% when you play alongside the best midfielder of his era, then you’re doing something wrong. Scholes is the perfect foil for Carrick, his range slightly more expansive, slightly more calm under pressing, and always capable of just giving Carrick the ball back so that he can use it, so he can keep the team ticking along, watching the two of them is like seeing an apprentice with his master, and I won’t lie, it gives me wood just thinking about our possession stats when those two play together.

If I try to name better deep lying playmakers of the lasts 20 years I can come up with a handful of names, Pirlo, latter day Scholes, Redondo, Guardiola, Xavi in the earlier stages of his career and Xabi Alonso. Carrick isn’t quite at that elite level, but he’s darned close, and whilst he doesn’t quite have the range of some of the best midfielders to grace a pitch in the last 2 decades, he is better defensively than most of them, adeptly slipping into centre back when the need arises whilst offering some height when defending corners.

The Carrick lovers will already know this, the slaters will just point out that he’s not Roy Keane. They’re right, he’s not, but he doesn’t try to be, and with the way tackling has become, and challenges that win the ball still being red cards, I don’t think I’d want him to try it, I love him just the way he is, our Rolls Royce, the guy with the 90% pass completion, who sits deep picking off attacks and then kick starting attacking drives of our own with adept passes to the man in space, be that sideways to a marauding full back, be it a few yards forward to the Ginger Prince, or be it a magnificent ball out to Antonio Valencia, it doesn’t matter, because he’ll find his man, and if they don’t score, he’ll be there, ready to stop another attack, in that clean, calculating way that means he very rarely needs to get his shorts dirty, and you know that you’re a brilliant player when you don’t even need to get your shorts dirty. Michael Carrick is my player of the year because he’s been through thick and thin, and when the bum got squeaky, he just kept doing his thing, but better, when you talk about a relentless machine just rolling over teams on their way to the title, Carrick is the cog that keeps it rolling, he might not look like much, but take him out and the machine breaks down.

Michael Carrick. My player of the season.

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