There are very few players that divide the Manchester United fan-base quite like Michael Carrick does. Often used as a scapegoat, many people have deemed him “not good enough” whilst others have labelled him ‘the next messiah’.
As time progresses however, there seems to be more people shifting into the latter group of fans, and so I’m here to explain why this may be happening. Since I’ve always been a big Michael Carrick fan, often taking to the Internet to defend his honour – a bit like an unemployed Captain Jack Sparrow, my love for Carrick has also obviously placed me into the latter category as well. I’m not here however to explain why I think he’s a good player though as I’m sure there are another 2000 articles online to do that for me, but more ‘what’s different about him this season’.
“He passes side-to-side a lot rather than forward”-
This is a common misconception, with the England international playing a higher percentage of his passes forward this season than the likes of Mikel Arteta, Yaya Toure, and Steven Gerrard. More precisely, he has made 1649 passes this season with 88% being accurate and 35% going forwards. Still, one can argue that this is only this season and that Michael Carrick has been very mediocre beforehand. People often forget to realise that over the last 18 months where his form has apparently been very good, he’s been playing a completely different role to that in which he previously did. Recently, Michael Carrick has been playing as a central-midfielder, meaning he’s able to move from box-to-box to create goal-scoring opportunities for himself and for his fellow teammates, or more precisely, he’s been allowed to pass the ball forward. If we look back just a few seasons ago, we would often deploy a 451 system with a midfield three of Carrick, Scholes and Fletcher/Anderson. More often than not, Carrick would play the ‘holding-midfielder’ role. His job isn’t to create any goal-scoring opportunities or pass forward but simply to keep possession of the ball, pass it to a teammate and break down opposition attacks. In his position, he cannot afford to play risky passes as doing so and losing the ball will almost certainly lead to the opposition scoring, hence the ‘side-to-side’ passes he’s now well renown for. My point here is simple, Carrick hasn’t become a better player overnight – he’s always been this good. He’s simply playing a different, more creative and attacking role now, hence why it seems that he was not playing well before in comparison. That’s not Michael’s fault though as he simply plays the role Sir Alex asks him to. If you have a problem with it, blame Fergie rather than Michael.
“He makes a lot of mistakes” –
This is an odd argument to have with most fans who fail to realise that most players make mistakes, but more odd due to the fact that those same fans are often the ones asking for him to be more creative. As stated above, the reason Carrick plays so many simple passes is that he can’t afford to lose the ball or else it might cost us. You can’t have it both ways! Either your midfielder keeps possession of the ball at all times without being too risky down the middle (ala the ‘old Carrick’), or they can be given some more freedom and then, due to the attacking nature of their new position, they are more prone to making mistakes. Also, we should note the number of games in which the 31 year old features in, having played in just under 300 games for United. Obviously, the more you play, the more you’re likely to make a mistake, and since he plays as often as anyone, we tend to see him make a mistake or two every now and then which get highlighted more than others due to Carrick being a common scapegoat for United fans and rival fans alike.
“He’s too weak and doesn’t get stuck in” –
Excuse the discrete racism here but this argument is probably the least credible and is often put forward by fat Englishmen in pubs who would prefer seeing their player make a two-footed tackle than see him score. Our English culture, although brilliant, loves players like Scott Parker and John Terry who chase down every ball and always make last-ditch tackles. More often than not though, it’s their poor reading of the game that leads to them having to do so. Paolo Maldini averaged only two tackles per game throughout his entire career – proof that a good player doesn’t have to make tackles to be great. Michael Carrick is another perfect example of a player that reads the game and eliminates the danger before it actually happens. He plays with his head rather than his physicality. Sergio Busquets is another good example of a player that does the same.
“He doesn’t score enough goals” –
You know who else hardly scored from midfield too? Xavi, Xabi Alonso and to a lesser extent, Iniesta, all three of whom made it into the FIFPRO XI for 2013. Although its nice to see your players chipping in with goals, as long as Michael Carrick keeps setting the goals up, that’s more than enough. And he’s doing just that this season thanks to his new attacking role. His goal tally should never be a major issue, but yes, I’d obviously prefer to see him score an extra goal every now and then.
“Look at his passing stats!” –
On the other side of the argument we often see ‘Carrick fanboys’ banging on about Michael Carrick’s passing stats. Numbers. That’s all they are -Numbers. Use your eyes and see just how much influence he has on a game to defend your argument regarding how good Michael is. You don’t need stats to prove your point if you actually know what you’re talking about.
These are just a few points which often get thrown around which I thought I’d try and tackle. Personally, I do feel Michael Carrick’s form has improve over the last 18 months but only because he’s playing in a different role than he was previously in and that brings along confidence to his game, meaning he’s now free to express himself in ways in which he couldn’t before. He was never ‘not good enough’, but Sir Alex simply utilised him in a different role which limited Carrick’s influence over matches. All you have to do is look at how many games the boy has featured since signing for us from Spurs. Sir Alex trusts him to be the core of our squad and there is a reason for it. I really believe that in 10 years time, someone will ask Sir Alex Ferguson who his best signings were for United and without hesitation, Fergie will mention Michael Carrick alongside the likes of Cantona et al.