Michael Carrick

Michael Carrick
Image from: sportbrief.co.zw

Michael Carrick

Current Club: Manchester United.
Previous Clubs: Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United.
Loan Clubs: None.

International: England 34 caps.
Trophies Won: UEFA Champions League 2008. English Premier League 2007, 2008. 2009, 2011, 2013. English FA Cup 2016. English League Cup 2009, 2010, 2017. FIFA Club World Cup 2009. UEFA Europa League 2017.

Carrick is a native of the Newcastle area and could well have been a product of the Newcastle United academy, were it not for being in the unfortunate position of being in the youth teams when they were scrapped by Kevin Keegan. In one of the many attempts by the English FA to improve the production of young talents, they had decided that it would be of benefit for youth teams to play their matches at first team stadiums. Newcastle decided it would hamper their efforts to compete in the Premier League, as the pitch would be torn up with the extra games.

Luckily for young Carrick, he chose to join West Ham's academy, which has always been known for producing players. He broke into the first team there at about the same time as Joe Cole and Frank Lampard Jr., but Carrick was always the quiet one of the trio. While Cole got all the positive plaudits for his trickery, Lampard got the negative attention over accusations of nepotism with his dad being assistant manager and uncle Harry Redknapp the manager, Carrick went a little under the radar and was just quietly effective.

He had not gone under the radar of Spurs though, who signed the midfielder in 2004 for less than £4m, peanuts by today's standards. After just two seasons with the North Londoners he was snapped up by Man Utd for a sum of roughly £25m, a large sum in 2006. Carrick has proven to be worth every penny as his quietly effective performances made him a mainstay of the side for nearly ten years. In recent seasons his influence has been lessened with injuries badly affecting his mobility and ability to cover the back four. Will this be his last season for the Red Devils?

At the age of 36 Carrick is no longer quite as effective or physical as he once was. While he has never relied on pace, Carrick has always used good positioning to cut out the passes and runs to a large extent, even the best player needs to be able to run at times. In the role he played, protecting the back four, it gets more difficult to cover the larger area in midfield, which is why it is surprising he never moved permanently further back, to play central defence. He has played in the backline many times and that gives a player the advantage of seeing all the play in front of them, allowing them to use positioning more easily to make up for a lack of pace.

It is not just opponent's runs that Carrick has the vision to spot, on the ball he is often the playmaker with an excellent range of passing to pick out the runs his vision has spotted. In his earlier days, he would also support the attacks more, often popping up around the edge of the box, though he was never a regular goalscorer, as his record of just 31 goals in 669 appearances shows. One thing that is particularly impressive is how reliable he is in the challenge, unlike many other midfielders in a similar role Carrick rarely (if ever) lunges in, which is why he has had just one red card in his career and that by virtue of two yellows in a Champions League game.

That cool, calm head has been one of the reasons he has been so underrated throughout his career, no one remembers his last ditch lunging tackles after a 50 yard chase because he does not allow himself to be so far out of position to need to do that. Carrick is more likely to read where a pass is going and slip in to nick it away, leaving most people seeing it as a misplaced pass, rather than realising how much skill went into being able to read the game. That is why Carrick will always be criminally undervalued as English football, and its fans, value the obvious physical effort and desire of the headless chicken running round chasing the ball over the more cerebral Carrick-style of play.