There are few managers in the world whose words are more respected than those of the current Manchester City boss, Pep Guardiola. Ahead of the second Manchester derby in the Premier League last season, the Spaniard lavished high praise on one United player in particular.
“I am a big fan of Michael Carrick. He is one of the best holding midfielders I’ve ever seen in my life by far. He’s the level of Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets.” – Pep Guardiola
This is big praise for Carrick, coming from the former Barcelona captain and legend. And he’s not the only one praising the Manchester United veteran. Many personalities in world football have expressed their appreciation for Carrick and what he brings to the game.
The midfielder comes from the renowned youth academy of West Ham United, which has produced many England regulars in recent years. Fellow graduates Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, and Jermain Defoe have been capped by England on many occasions, and are respected figures in the English game.
Unfortunately, despite establishing himself as a Premier League great, Carrick never enjoyed the same respect from his national team coaches. Carrick was overlooked on several occasions by his managers for other holding midfielders, such as Gareth Barry and Scott Parker, who were statistically better. But unlike traditional holding midfielders from England, Carrick was a much calmer, rarer personality on the pitch.
“He brings calmness to the game and parades around the pitch like a Rolls-Royce” – Paul Scholes
Scholes’ words perfectly define the style of Carrick’s play on the pitch. As a deep-lying holding midfielder, defenders could rely on him to keep the ball and make effective forward passes. He was the metronome of United’s midfield, laying the foundation for attacking moves in the final third. He did not score many goals or make many assists; fans may or may not have felt his presence in numerical terms. However, when he wasn’t playing, his absence affected the team on a different level.
It was a big decision from Carrick to leave Tottenham for United in the summer of 2006. In addition, he took the number 16 jersey from Roy Keane, one of the most influential players at the club. United paid Spurs a fee of £18.6m; at the time, many doubted that Carrick could live up to the jersey and that fee. Fast forward 12 years, those fans now idolise him as one of the club’s greats.
Carrick was different from previous incumbents of his role at United, such as Nicky Butt, Roy Keane, and Paul Ince. He always had his head in the game, always the calmest player on the pitch. Never afraid to receive a pass from any of his team-mates, he oozed class on the pitch. It’s a shame that he never got the chance to play regularly for the Three Lions.
To imagine, a midfield of Lampard, Gerrard, Beckham, Scholes, and Carrick at the centre of it all. Things might have turned out differently for England at the World Cup and Euro tournaments over the years. However, England’s loss was United’s gain. Carrick has since gone on to enjoy a stellar career, winning every club trophy an English Premier League player could possibly win in his career. He’s also the only player to do so; apart from Wayne Rooney, who left United last summer to rejoin his boyhood club, Everton.
“Scholes and Carrick together was peaceful. It was like going into a bar and hearing a piano playing. It’s relaxing.” – Gary Neville
The veteran has also produced his share of memorable moments in a United shirt. His contributions to United’s historic 7-1 win against Roma are still remembered and celebrated. The man himself ranks that Roma game in his top five games for United.
As a player, he’s been part of several title-winning sides under Sir Alex Ferguson – five, to be exact. In the 2012-13 season, which was also Sir Alex’s last season at the club, his influential performances saw him become United’s player of the year.
When fit, Carrick was an untouchable player in United’s midfield. Amongst all the glamorous stars at the club, the ones who relished the spotlight that Manchester United gave them, Carrick was a humble personality who wanted to give his best for his team over 90 minutes, on any match day.
Now 36, Carrick has come to the end of his playing days. Having announced that he would be retiring at the end of the season, he has already started a new role as a key member of Jose Mourinho’s coaching staff.
Since his announcement in mid-March, Carrick’s influence as a coach is already evident. A leading candidate for player of the year this season, Jesse Lingard explained how Carrick helps the team with his input as a coach.
“He has been doing it (showing videos to help them) with a lot of players, Romelu (Lukaku) as well, I think it’s good there’s someone in the dressing room we can go to for tips and advice, and he’s always there for the younger players as well.” – Jesse Lingard
After the recent 3-2 victory over Manchester City, Paul Pogba, United’s star on the day, praised Carrick as well. He revealed that Carrick’s advice helped him score his goals, as well as improve his runs in the final third. Such strong influence on one of the club’s biggest personalities is already an impressive achievement for Carrick.
His effects have also been evident in the recent resurgence of fellow midfielder Ander Herrera. Since Mourinho returned to 4-3-3 following the arrival of Alexis Sanchez, the Spaniard’s overall contribution has massively improved after an underwhelming first half of the season. Alongside Nemanja Matic, Herrera’s form has helped Pogba improve in the final third as well. Herrera concurred that Carrick played a vital role in the turnaround against Manchester City at the Etihad.
In recent games, Carrick can be seen sitting alongside Rui Faria, Mourinho’s assistant manager. The Englishman’s work ethic is quite impressive given that he becomes a full-time coach next season. Mourinho appreciates his input as well; the importance he is placing in Carrick in this learning phase shows that the new coach is on the right track to becoming a manager in the future.
As United fans bid adieu to their midfield maestro, they will enjoy the sight of him progressing as a coach. Carrick’s playing days may now be over, however, his influence on United will continue to grow.
Featured image credit: https://twitter.com/carras16