Before Tom Cleverley came along to infuriate us all, Michael Carrick was one of the most criticised players in the United squad. Taking up the number 16 shirt put huge pressure on Carrick as fans saw him as a direct replacement for Roy Keane. This comparison overshadowed his early years as there really is no comparison in terms of styles. Keane’s aggressive, direct approach was chalk and cheese to Carrick’s lethargic but efficient midfield role. It took time for fans to warm to Carrick but a hugely impressive 2012/13 season left even his staunchest critics eating their words. Last season Carrick, amongst others, really underperformed and United’s midfield fell under the spotlight. This issue is being addressed this summer with Ander Herrera being added to the squad and a move for Arturo Vidal looking ever more likely. At 32, have Michael Carrick’s days at Old Trafford come to an end?
The future of Carrick may weigh on what system Van Gaal decides to implement in Manchester. Many observers are suggesting that the success of his 5-3-2 formation for Holland in Brazil could lead to him utilising this formation when he takes charge of United. If so, this would put Carrick’s future on a knife edge. Herrera and the potential arrival of Vidal would make up the midfield with Mata or Rooney taking up the number 10 position. Whilst Carrick would be a useful sub his usual guaranteed position in the starting eleven would be gone. However, for me, it is unlikely that Van Gaal will carry this rather unorthodox system from Holland to Manchester. I believe we will see him return to his favourite 4-3-3 which would be good news for Carrick. Before Strootman’s injury this was the formation Van Gaal deployed for his Dutch side. This would allow Carrick to excel in a new role in front of the back four, a role he has never been able to properly fill since joining United.
Playing alongside Scholes, Anderson or Cleverley has lead to Carrick having to combine several functions in order to cover up United’s midfield inadequacies. Rather than laying deep and controlling the area in front of the defence, Carrick has had to function as a box-to-box midfielder which is a function his style does not suit. If Van Gaal does indeed use 4-3-3, Carrick can sit deep and free the two midfielders ahead of him. Outstanding pass accuracy and the unwavering ability to break up opposition play make Carrick perfect for this deeper role. Also his ability to drop into defence allows for tactical malleability which facilitates Van Gaal’s regular in game changes in formation.
As a huge Carrick fan, I believe he has a lot more to give at United and given a chance will become a key player throughout the upcoming reign of Louis Van Gaal.