Michael Carrick - His Role In United's Success
How important is Michael Carrick to Manchester United's continued success? Today on the blog Ahmad Kahn discusses Carrick's influence as the Red Devils ready themselves for another Premiership crown in 2013.
In recent times, Michael Carrick’s name has been at the tip of any Manchester United fan’s tongue. Awarded the man-of-the-match performance against Tottenham this past weekend and praised by Sir Alex Ferguson as having his “best-ever-season at the club,” Carrick’s performances this season has finally gotten people to sit up and take note of his ability.
Prior to this season, however, Carrick has been fodder to criticisms by some of the United faithful. It seemed a strange situation, considering Sir Alex has always been an admirer of his ability. But it’s really quite simple to understand this conflict in opinion.
Taking over the No. 16 from Roy Keane, comparisons with the legendary midfield commander are inevitable. While Keane will always be remembered for his swashbuckling, no-nonsense, rugged and in-your-face style of football that fans loved, Carrick is, well, quite the opposite. You don’t see Carrick running down at an opponent like a lion attempting to capture and devour its prey. He is more of a perceptive eagle, reading the game intelligently and protecting the back four with interceptions rather than crunching challenges.
Furthermore, he might not have the style and poise of David Silva, the tenacity of Steven Gerard or the attacking impetus of Frank Lampard. But what he does have is the calming ability to influence the game. And that is something he possesses in abundance.
Simply put, Carrick makes United tick.
The Possession Master
Carrick dictates how the team plays, from cleaning up any defensive mess to starting and continuing the waves of United attacks on the opposition half. He is always one step ahead of everyone, knowing where he wants to pass the ball way before the ball even ends on his feet.
It is a known fact that his strongest attribute has always been his passing ability. This season alone, Carrick has attempted the most total passes in the Premier League. He makes an average of 80.1 passes a game, with a successful passing rate of 88.1%, one of the highest success rates in the division. He is among the best passers in the Premier League, along the likes of Yaya Toure, Mikel Arteta, Steven Gerard and Santiago Cazorla. It is also worth noting that Carrick is among the top players who have won back possession for his team the most times.
In some ways, I have to admit that Carrick is a victim of his simplistic playing style, as his effective passing is not the most jaw-dropping style of play around. But in Carrick, United have the perfect blend of style and substance. Passing is key to United’s game, and with Carrick’s efficiency, it gives the attacking players to use their flair and express themselves more freely.
As Bryan Robson once said, “he (Carrick) brings a lovely sort of balance to more attacking players…He allows them to go on and get on with attacking, while he takes care of everything else.” In this current United team, Robson’s words are bearing fruit, as United have been scoring goals for fun (Manchester United have scored 57 goals in 23 Premier League games so far this season, more than any other club).
This season especially, Carrick has been absolutely indispensable to Manchester United.
Continuing from the 2011/2012 season, Carrick had started 33 consecutive league games before finally being rested for the game against Queens Park Rangers last November where United won 3-1. Over 23 Premier League games this season, Carrick has been the most used United player, starting in 22 of those games.
The sheer quantity of games Carrick has been involved in would tell you his importance to the team. Think about United’s abundance of central midfield talent. There is Scholes, Giggs, Anderson, Fletcher, Kagawa, Cleverley, and to an extent, Rooney. At one point or another this season, they have all played alongside Carrick as their midfield pairing. This again goes to show how Carrick has cemented his place deep in United’s midfield. What makes it even more amazing is Carrick’s versatility at playing alongside his midfield counterparts, adapting to their playing styles and allowing each of them the freedom to express themselves in United’s attack.
Speaking of versatile, in a season disturbed by injuries at the beginning of the season, Carrick was even used as a centre back for the first few games, showing Sir Alex’s reliance and trust on his central man.
The impending retirement of Scholes and Giggs and the infrequency of the number of matches they will play, along with the uncertainty revolving around Darren Fletcher and whether he will play again, plus the inconsistencies of the younger generation of Anderson and Cleverley; all this points to Carrick’s prominence as the main man in the middle for United.
Carrick’s form for Manchester United has been the engine room for the team to take the initiative at the top of the table in the Premier League title race so far. Whether United can stay there till the end of the season may very well depend on Carrick’s performances in the latter part of the season.
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