The Enigma of Michael Carrick

Michael Carrick

AUTHOR: – Bricki

Michael Carrick used to always be on the bench for England. Last night he wasn’t even in the squad. Its a position he seems to have been stuck in since the middle of last season. The question is what has happened to the player who was an integral cog in 3 championship winning teams and a team that reached consecutive Champions League Finals?

The introduction of Carrick into the United team from Spurs gave the midfield a more composed look and protection for the back four. This allowed Fletcher, Scholes and the newly signed Anderson to play further up the pitch and support Rooney and Ronaldo. After several quiet displays early on in his United career he excelled against Chelsea at Old Trafford, snuffing out attacks and giving more presence in Midfield.


From this point on Carrick upped the effort and became a mainstay in the team as Rooney and Ronaldo ran riot up front resulting in the first title at Old Trafford in 2 years. His good form continued in the following season and with Scholes out for a long period injured and Hargreaves suffering the same fate, Fletcher and Carrick became a central pairing with regular support from Park or Anderson. In the ‘Quarterback’ role, Carrick kept the team ticking over as well as protecting Vidic and Ferdinand when required.

A stellar passing performance against Inter Milan in the San Siro led the Italian Press to laud Carrick as a fantastic player and question why he had failed to appear at International Level. The composed performances continued until the Final against Barcelona in Rome. Without Fletcher next to him and a very poor Anderson performance, Carrick struggled against Xavi and Iniesta, no shame in this with both players possibly playing the best football of their careers.

This appeared to be a watershed moment for Carrick in his play, he didnt look the same player the following season. Appearing to lack confidence and belief in his abilities, he seemed to be playing within his abilities and not taking risks with his passes. Injury followed and his place in the team was lost and never recovered as United missed out on the title to Chelsea and suffered defeat in the quarter finals of the Champions League to Bayern Munich.

On the national team front Carrick has suffered due to several reasons. The biggest reason is the continued dominance in centre midfield of Gerrard and Lampard. Both players have more ‘Impact’ and a bigger profile in the Premier League than Carrick, however have never gelled for England. Despite this every England coach has persisted with both players and playing 4-4-2 instead of only picking one of the two with a more suitable partner to bring the best out of them. The 4-4-2 formation is also an issue when it comes to getting the best out of Carrick.

His strongest performances for United have come in Europe when they have tended to play a 4-2-3-1 system with players such as Fletcher, Scholes and Anderson in the middle with him. This allows Carrick plenty of options for distribution and the ability to sit and conduct proceedings. As this is a formation that England play extremely rarely it doesn’t allow for Carrick to establish himself in the team. It can also be an issue that very few English players and teams play this way meaning its not a system most England players are not used to.

Heading into this season Carrick needed to rediscover the belief and confidence in his play. He clearly has the talent and skill as proven in previous seasons and whilst Paul Scholes is currently in form naturally that he has faded at points this year as injury has taken its toll. This is the chance for Carrick to make the big comeback and prove he deserves at the highest level, its fair to say that Carrick is in a make or break position with regards his Manchester United future. As Scholes and Giggs eventually step back it needs players to step up and take control, Carrick in his role could become a heartbeat of the next United team.

Carrick could have a genuine chance to make a huge impact this Saturday in the Manchester Derby. With the shape and style of play that Manchester City have played this season, it is Carrick in the deep role ahead of the centre halves who could have a big say in the outcome of the match. Tevez has shown time and again he likes to drop deep and look for the ball, with Carrick in this space it limits the time Tevez can have on the ball and hopefully nullify the attack. with the full backs dealing with the wide players this allows Vidic and his centre half partner to deal with any runs from midfield from Barry, De Jong et al.

Its a golden chance for Carrick to show the style of play he brings to the team with his composure, positioning and support going forward and at the back.

It could truly be the day we rediscover the Michael Carrick of old, i hope he can deliver…

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9 Responses to “The Enigma of Michael Carrick”

  1. Ian says:

    To be fair to assorted England managers, while I agree that Gerrard and Lampard have worked as a pairing only sparingly, when Carrick’s been in England games he’s never given them too much to think about. Even when we played Germany in that friendly and they alledgedly picked centre-halves based on a concern of what could come of a combination of Carrick’s long balls and Agbonlahor’s (I think) pace he never really stretched.

    At United level, his deterioration (and minor revival at times this season) is nigh inexplicable. He seems to have lost his confidence in pinging the ball around and moving forward which is a shame because he’s got ability to spare.

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  2. I really don’t think he’s deteriorated as much as people think – we certainly play better when he plays and as I wrote in January his deeper role actually was going totally overlooked – http://www.stretford-end.com/blog/2011/01/carricks-deeper-role-is-key-to-midfield-success/

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  3. Lunga says:

    Spot on. The lad needs to get back to the level he was playing at 3 years ago.

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  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Doron Salomon, Claudia Lynn, Roshan Shetty, Mihir Hombalkar, Stephen McDonough and others. Stephen McDonough said: RT @DoronSalomon: The Enigma of Michael Carrick http://t.co/YK5LcRT via @stretford_end by @bricki […]

  5. Steve says:

    When Carrick plays well so do United, usually. He hasn’t been as bad as people seem to have perceived in the last 18 months though he definitely hasn’t been at his best.
    Unfortunately, he will rarely be appreciated in this country because a substantial section of fans don’t understand what he does for the team. Inconsistency has been his main problem recently. Fergie seems to be employing him in a more withdrawn role almost as a Busquets-type defensive midfielder rather than an all-action De Jong style enforcer. If Rafael continues his deveopment and Evra stays then Carrick could be key to United’s short to medium term style of play with an emphasis on two, rather than one, attacking fullbacks.

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  6. Jacob says:

    he’s always been the water-carrier. unfancied player who does his job well. too bad nobody acknowledges it although he’s been inconsistent this year. if he continues this indifference, i think he’ll be moving on this summer. gibson on the other hand, is more or less a confirmed mover.

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  7. Jacob you say no one acknowledges him but did you see this a month ago – http://www.stretford-end.com/blog/2011/01/carricks-deeper-role-is-key-to-midfield-success/

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  8. StuBails says:

    Xabi Alonso once said in an interview that if he was England Manager, Michael Carrick would be the first name on his team-sheet.

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  9. Ian says:

    Carrick has indeed done a solid job as a shield for the back four and moving the ball on. But the “being Claude Makelele with a little more range” role he seems to play these days is restricting his ability, if it’s a conscious choice.

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  10. […] for the Reds scoring 17 goals – he’s yet to score this season though. This blog has backed Carrick this season and highlighted how key he has been in a changed role – something he often […]

  11. nelson says:

    what about playing carrick as a creative midfielder?i feel united would benefit from employing him just behind the front players, as this would pretty much compel him to create things insinctively.one of micheal’s main problem seems to be confidence.with him operating off a striker(S),the confidence to ease past opponents like we know he can,will definately soar.this should happen against weaker sides,mainly because his ball retention and movement in tight areas will not be as sternly tested.i feel this will ultimately spark that confidence back into his game,and the once super sophisticated midfielder that we once saw,will start to unravel.micheal protecting the back four very much favours the passer in him that we all know. but we need to have that central versatility from all our midfielders,and pushing the eagle eyed one(carrick) forward ,will immensely help get those powerful yaya toure like runs back in him.many of us saw carrick tear arsenal’s defence with a dazzling run a few years back.i wouldn’t mind witnessing that from a player who is considerably physically strong,and yet that attribute looks underutilised with him playing deep in midfield.

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