There is always a United player who divides opinion, often, there is more than one. Nani experienced it in his first few years at United as did Dimitar Berbatov, some would argue he still does. However the marmite of United’s squad this year has been Michael Carrick, on the day that the midfielder has signed a three year extension to his current contract I ask what next for Carrick?
Despite concerns amongst the United faithful Carrick is obviously still held in high esteem by Sir Alex Ferguson who evidently feels that the England international has big role to play in the current and future United teams. The Boss described Carrick as an “true professional” and hailed his “outstanding performances” since joing the club from Tottenham in 2006. Now I defy any United fan to dispute Carrick’s influence in his first two seasons. Wearing Roy Keane’s number sixteen he was different to Keano but just as effective. His passing was immaculate and his spacial awareness along with his eye for a tackle made him the perfect foil for Paul Scholes and increased United’s ability to play the ball in behind defenders and utilise the pace of the likes of Giggs and Ronaldo. He was a vital cog in the team who won the Champions League and two Premier League’s to boot, a steal at eighteen million when you consider some of the prices bandied about.
His influence may have waned in his third season with Darren Fletcher being deployed on a more regular basis but he was still a big player as United won a record equalling eighteenth title however it was the 2009 Champions League Final against Barcelona that seemed to change Carricks fortunes at United. Without the destructive Fletcher and Hargreaves United’s midfield was over run and the Reds could simply not get the ball off the likes of Xavi and Iniesta, they gave Carrick (and admittedly the rest of the United’s midfield) a torrid time and it seems that Carrick has come off the worse.
Carricks fourth season produced performances not of the ilk of the man bought back in 2006 , he found difficulty picking out players who were only minimal distances away from him and towards the end of the season found himself forced out by Darron Gibson. To his credit Michael popped up with some important goals such as in the Carling Cup Semi Final second leg against Manchester City but we didn’t buy him to score goals, and it was worrying that what would normally be his bread and butter was proving to be a hard task for Carrick.
This season there has been an improvement, I watched him against Chelsea in the Community Shield this year and he was fantastic, seemingly back to his old self. He dominated the midfield and appeared to have put his poor season behind him. Unfortunately this hasn’t quite been the case, better than last season yes, but not quite scaling the heights of his first years at Old Trafford. However think of it like this, Carrick’s fourth and worst season in a Red shirt came after two massive departures in the summer, Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo left in very different circumstances and United were forced to rebuild, re-style, re-assemble. Carrick may well have taken the longest out of his team mates to accustom himself to United’s new style of play, two out and out wingers and very rarely 4-4-2. Football players are human after all and we all take time adapting to different situations, some faster than others. This may well have been the case with Carrick. Also a constant gripe of mine is when United fans compare him with the likes of Andreas Iniesta and moan about how Iniesta is far superior. Well, Carrick is not the attacking dynamo that Iniesta is, like Fletcher he is there to do a job, an invaluable job that you only notice is crucial when he’s not there. A key factor that is often overlooked by many fans.
Of late things are looking up for the Reds number sixteen. At Stamford Bridge he was great and simply did not deserve to be on the losing side. Criticised often for passing backwards too often he played a couple a terrific cutting passes to release Nani down the flanks. Similarly against Wigan Carrick appeared to be getting his mojo back and his good performances have seemingly been awarded with a new contract. This could be another masterstroke by the Gaffer and will hopefully be the confidence boost that Carrick needs. Faith from the manager confirmed I can only see is form improving but only time will tell.
Sir Alex quotes taken from www.manutd.com