For any side to be successful, you need your goalscorers, you need a solid centre back pairing, you need a top draw goalkeeper, but you also need that one player in your side who can do a job for the team without most people even realising they are actually doing it. For Manchester United, that man is Michael Carrick.
He may not grab the headlines every week, nor make you leap off your seat in excitement, but his contribution to the side is just as important. Take Carrick away from that central midfield there’s a big chance that the club’s attacking talent flourish doesn’t flourish.
There have been few better passers of a football that have ever graced the Old Trafford turf than Carrick. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a 2 yard simple pass or a long range 40 yard pass, Carrick always finds his man.
Throughout his stay at the Theatre of Dreams, Carrick has won everything there was to win in the game; 5 Premier League Titles, 1 European Cup, 1 FA Cup, 1 League Cup, 1 FIFA Club World Cup and a collection of Charity Shields, rounding off a mightily impressive CV for the midfielder.
Having impressed for Tottenham Hotspur, Carrick joined United all the way back in the summer of 2006 for a reported fee of £18.6 Million. At the time the club were going through something of rough patch; failure to overhaul Arsene Wenger’s invincible Arsenal side in 2004 and Jose Mourinho’s rampant Chelsea for the past 2 seasons combined with Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo’s rather infamous fall out at the 2006 World Cup left the United faithful not really knowing what to expect over the coming years. What was to follow was beyond the stuff of dreams as United made their way to the peak of not just English, but World football.
The 2006/07 campaign saw the midfielder make a stunning 52 appearances in all competitions, (his most to date) netting a total of 6 goals, including two wonderful strikes against Roma in the 7-1 Champions League quarter final demolition at Old Trafford. Ronaldo and Rooney may have been stealing the show, but Carrick was doing his job for the side quietly and effectively as United won back the Premier League Title from Chelsea.
The following season (2007/08) saw United crowned not only Champions of England but Europe too, and whilst a certain Portuguese footballer was scoring goals for fun, Carrick’s influence on the Manchester United side wasn’t too far behind. In all the midfielder made an impressive 49 appearances in all competition’s most notably playing the entire 120 minutes against Chelsea in the European Cup final.
As we headed into the 2008/09 campaign, United won yet another Premier League title, making it three in a row. The club even went a step further and were crowned Champions of the World, defeating Liga de Quito 1-0 in the Club World Cup final. For Carrick, it was another successful personal campaign, which saw the midfielder make a total of 43 appearances, scoring 4 goals and playing the entire European Cup final, only this time losing out to Barcelona.
The departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez the following summer would always make it a difficult season for the club. Despite losing two key members of the squad, United only lost out on the League Title on the final day. Throughout the campaign Carrick made a total of 44 appearances for the club, finding the back of the net on five occasions, with arguably the highlight coming against Manchester City in a League Cup clash at Old Trafford, where Carrick calmly and coolly tucked the ball home scoring United’s second goal on the night and third on aggregate.
As Carrick has edged closer to the latter days of his footballing career, his game hasn’t really changed. Arguably, it didn’t have to. He was never one to rely on pace, and can still dictate play from the centre of midfield with ease.
In Sir Alex Ferguson’s final three seasons in charge at Old Trafford, Carrick was still a consistent figure amongst the United first team squad, and never managed to make less than 40 appearances throughout. Two more League Titles followed (2011, 2013) as did another appearance in a European Cup final, only to lose out again to Barcelona (2011). His efforts on the field were to be rewarded as at the end of the Sir Alex Ferguson’s final campaign in charge (2012/13), Carrick was included in the PFA Team of the year along with picking up the clubs Players Player of the Year award.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement from the game in 2013 led to the appointment of David Moyes, which led to a season that the club would rather forget, finishing in seventh place and leading United to sack David Moyes and place club legend Ryan Giggs in charge for the final 4 games. It would be hard to pick anyone who could have held their head up high after that season, not just Carrick.
The following campaign brought the arrival of Dutchman Louis Van Gaal, but Carrick didn’t feature for the club until November after suffering an ankle injury. His stop-start campaign only saw the midfielder make limited appearances that campaign, as United finished fourth in the Premier League. The 2015/16 season under the Dutchman saw the club finish outside the top four in fifth place, whilst Carrick on a personal note featured a lot more than the previous campaign, as he helped the club win the FA Cup for a 12th time.
As we head into the new season following Louis Van Gaal’s exit from the club and Jose Mourinho’s arrival, Carrick will no doubt still have a significant role to play for the side. When the bigger games come calling, their can be little doubt that Carrick will be one of the first names on the Portuguese’s team sheet. He has been that important and continues to be.