Michael Carrick Shouldn't Play for Manchester United

Manchester United v Blackburn Rovers (7-1) Premier League  27/11/2010 Michael Carrick (Man Utd) Photo: Roger Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written, the reason being that the most recent discussions on football have left me dispassionate. I didn’t care about the World Cup bids and their destinations and don’t talk to me about current football fashion issues. If anything the last few weeks have been the same old stories covered in depth. The continuing will they/won’t they of Liverpool’s season, the surprising form of Bolton, Blackpool and West Brom, the insanity on Tyneside and the problems at Chelsea. All of which have been ably covered on this site already. What has brought me back though is a tantalising weekend of football where the fixture boffins have given us last year’s top four squaring off against each other. It is one of those games, at Old Trafford, that a routine thing will happen in a game that is very rarely routine.

Michael Carrick will have very little influence on the game. If anything Carrick is more of a liability than an asset to the current United set-up. Take their most recent game for example, it was Carrick who gave the ball away for Valencia’s only goal and United’s only goal conceded in the tournament so far. Mistakes happen though and if anything a mistake by Carrick is the exception rather than the rule, however his performance beyond that was the rule. Slow, methodical and lightweight Carrick didn’t influence the game one iota. That is the story of his European career, the games against Bayern last year and the Barcelona final of the year before show a player who doesn’t belong on the biggest stage in England or European football.

None of this is to say that Michael Carrick is anything other than a very good player, it’s just that he serves no purpose in Manchester United’s midfield. Carrick is an exceptionally composed midfielder who is usually unflappable and unerring with his passing. He can settle a game down with a few well chosen touches and ensure that his team maintains possession. The problem is that these particular qualities are not necessary in a team who were once famous for the counter-attacking and who have a culture of attacking football. As evidenced by the below Carrick will usually play the ball sideways rather than forwards.

by Guardian Chalkboards

This is not unusual for a midfielder in 2010, many technically limited players will play the ball sideways to a more talented colleague. However, Carrick is not a technically limited player, however he is a creativity black hole. Carrick lacks the imagination of players who possess his passing ability but put it to better use. Of course Carrick is not alone in the United midfield, he shares the pitch with Darren Fletcher a midfield dynamo who does exert his influence on the game. Fletcher doesn’t tackle more and doesn’t score more but his engine means that he will often be found further up the pitch than Carrick which leads to more assists. Carrick currently has zero assists this season even in a team that put seven past Blackburn. The same also applies to a player currently enjoying a mini-renaissance in Anderson. Much like Nani has seemingly come to fruition after a few seasons as a maybe player, Anderson was (according to reports) being sent to Brazil in January. If that were to take place (it won’t) it would be genuinely surprising. Granted it has only been two games but in those two games Anderson has looked very good, nearing a hundred attempted passes you can see (below) that his first thought was to bring the ball forward.

by Guardian Chalkboards

The reason I’ve selected the Blackburn game as an example is that even in a match where Manchester United were dominant Carrick failed to have any attacking influence unlike players who have a much worse reputation than he at Old Trafford.

So, what to do? Well, in my opinion Carrick is unnecessary in Manchester United’s midfield. Darren Fletcher plays the role of midfield dynamo, Anderson/Giggs/Park provide the attacking intent and ostensibly Carrick and Scholes are the deep lying play-makers. However, as shown Carrick is not much of a playmaker. His attributes do not suit themselves to a counter-attacking side in the mould of United, instead his abilities are good for a team who need to get their foot on the ball and relieve pressure through possession. A team like Everton or Stoke could benefit from his metronome-like precision, that would represent a significant step down in stature for Carrick but would be where his talents are best utilised.

For Manchester United Carrick’s current role could be filled in by any youth midfielder not prone to mistakes with no detriment to their play or results, however his ideal replacement (tough tackler with some passing ability), is already at the club but crocked. Owen Hargreaves’ reputation has only risen in his prolonged absence as United and England have craved his play. Carrick was included the England World Cup squad but failed to play a single minute. According to Football365 (who have decried Carrick for some time)

“Four years after the mauling in the San Siro prompted a strategic re-think, United are still bereft of the defensive shield that Ferguson has implicitly acknowledged is imperative if they are to succeed.”

Players of the caliber needed are few and far between rumours have swirled regarding Bastian Schwiensteiger who would fit the role perfectly but looks unlikely to leave Bayern in the near future.

Come Monday night when United take on Arsenal don’t be surprised if you don’t notice Michael Carrick, no one really does. He won’t make any mistakes but he won’t set up any goals either, he’ll just be there as usual, taking up space, slowing the game down and infuriating me. One last chalkboard before we go, the much maligned Mikel who plays the screening role for Chelsea in the exact same fixture this season.

by Guardian Chalkboards

For an opposing view with the same kind of analysis (except done much, much better) click here.

37 thoughts on “Michael Carrick Shouldn't Play for Manchester United”

  1. While I don't disagree with the overall theme of the article, I do think that using the Blackburn match as an example may not have been the best idea. Completing 92 of 97 passes is nothing to sniff at, no matter how many were square balls. The tackling numbers, however were shocking!

  2. this artical is bull*** and biased i can assure you that if carrick puts in a perfomance against arsenal this artical will change colour like a chameleon and start praising. These are the same articals which were aimed at berbatov, nani and anderson during there dip in form. I believe in carrick and i know he has a lot to offer.

  3. Entirely agreed. I often watch Carrick play with the most scrutiny, simply trying to discover what benefit, exactly, he brings to the side. While he is a fine, tidy player, I often find it hard to find anything he does that the average footballer would struggle to do. It's not to say that he doesn't have the abilities within him to do remarkable things, he just simply does not do them.

  4. sergio busquets plays an almost identical role to carrick for barcelona, but noone seems to be criticising him. infact, he is a key player for them. the only difference between the two is that busquets plays in a midfield 3 unlike carrick. carrick would thrive in a 3 but he doesnt pick the team

    1. Sergio Busquets tackles. In fact he plays as a sweeper sometimes in Barca's system. http://www.zonalmarking.net/2010/09/20/atletico-madrid-1-2-barcelona-busquets-takes-modern-centre-half-role-a-little-further/

      Apples and Oranges.

  5. With all due respect, you dont know s**t about football. Other than a slight lack of pace, Carrick is the perfect midfielder. He can tackle, shoot and pass as well as anyone. Nobody controls the midfield better than him. Have you not noticed that since he arrived at United they have won the league 3/4 times and got to 2 champions league finals ?! Have you not noticed that United have been poor all season until he came back to the starting lineup? You might think that Carrick doesn't bring much but please take a minute to notice how much better the team performs when he's out there. Besides he hasn't hit top gear yet, he usually gets it around this time of year. Btw I'm sure if the idiot Capello would've opened his mind for one second and given him a chance at the World Cup instead of the continuously ineffective for England Gerrard and Lampard they wouldve had a much better one.

    1. Carrick is not poor. But a 'perfect midfielder'? Why doesn't he play for his country. He doesn't need pace, you rarely do in Central Midfield. The fact is that he's superb technically and his passing is immaculate. However, he slows the play down, only plays it sideways and offers nothing going forward. As for his shooting? It's non-existant.

    2. I'm amazed by your statement. "Perfect" midfielder is actually more like Jack of all trades but master of none... which basically means he is average. Yes he run the midfield but sometimes you just can see that he actually got clueless of what to do and ended up wasting time or making mistakes.

      Yes Capello is an idiot to actually choose Carrick while what he needs is Scott Parker type of player.

      YOU are the one who don't know sh*t about football

      1. Yes so you know more about football than Sir Alex. If you don't agree with me thats fine, but the stats speak for themselves. United have become a much better side ever since he came into the team. Go tell your grandmother how ur such a genius at knowing your football or something.

        About the slowing down play thing, couldnt disagree more. Sometimes you need players who slow the play down. You sound like the people who have always criticized Berbatov. Yes United like to play with a counter-attacking style but that doesnt mean ur gonna play that way for the whole game. For me that statement just doesnt make any sense and when United do counter-attack he usually releases the ball quickly to a Rooney or a Nani.

        I want you to take the West Ham game for example. Fletcher and Anderson were the cnetral midfielders , which you would think is a pretty good combination. We all know what happened, they got ran over by SPECTOR and Kovac and lost 4-0! Don't get me wrong I think Fletcher and Anderson are great midfielders but I just think that no one holds the team together better than Carrick. I've always thought he was one of the most underrated players and that is why seeing that article infuriated me a little, but you are entitled to your opinion.

        1. "You sound like the people who have always criticized Berbatov."


          "Yes so you know more about football than Sir Alex."
          Nope but I have an opinion.

          "I want you to take the West Ham game for example. Fletcher and Anderson were the cnetral midfielders "

          Great point. IF you ignore Macheda and Jonny Evans' 'contributions'.

          "no one holds the team together better than Carrick. "

          Perhaps this is self fulfilling but when have United ever needed someone to 'hold the team together'. They attack. Attack, attack, attack.

          "I’ve always thought he was one of the most underrated players and that is why seeing that article infuriated me a little, but you are entitled to your opinion."

          As one of the more measured and reasoned responses i've taken the time to answer you and you're right it's an opinion. If he bangs in two against Arsenal come on back and tell me right off.

  6. What exactly is the point the comparison with Mikel at the end is trying to make? If there is indeed meant to be a point there, because it's tricky to find one.

  7. This article is biased and so full of bullshyte it’s laughable. Other than Scholes there’s no other centre midfielder in our squad who has a great a variation of passing.

    Watch and play more football and you’ll LEARN to appreciate quality of all styles.

    ‘Carrick shouldn’t play for Manchester United!?!?! LOL Thank fcuk for Fergie.

    1. Biased how? It's an opinion, an opinion usually has one side. I watch and play football if anything i'm like Carrick as i play insofaras all i can do is pass.

      I appreciate the style he is extremely composed and an efficient passer one who is completely wasted.

  8. Carrick shouldn't play for man utd IN BIG GAMES is the right statement for me.

    He is a good squad player like Park but he lack the ability to stamp his authority in big games. Can't tackle, run, shoot, or dictate tempo. Just like Mikel or Denilson. I don't think that selling him is the right solution since he at most worth 8 million pounds if sold now.

    Busquet plays in Barca that play possesion game and he have 2 genius in front of him. That's why he never got critisized. Carrick will do fine if he actually a Spanish actually.

  9. I agree with this post. While Carrick is far from a poor midfielder, his east-west style of play just doesn't suit United when they run the counter-attack. It's not a knock on Carrick's personally, it's just that some player's styles don't fit with certain clubs. Utd is much better when the game flows and they have the defense on its heels with counter after counter. Carrick does have the ability to hold the ball and pass (assist on Obertan goal against Bursaspor), but sometimes he slows play down too much or holds onto the ball too much (Valencia). Let's use another example. Look at Anderson. He's not a perfect midfielder, however his strength on the ball and ambition (yes Wazza, ambition) to run north-south from box to box fits United's attacking style much better. This is why despite being in SAF's doghouse, he's been prominently featured in the last run of matches and was able to secure the well-deserved equalizer on Tuesday.

  10. Well put together article, but couldnt disagree more.

    Carrick was integral for 2008 CL win.
    His deep role is important to setting the tempo to United's game,
    Scholes and Fletcher play 10x better when he is there to provide some security and be a safe secure passer of the ball.

    Carrick is similar to Busquets and Pirlo as teams often play around him because of his great positioning.

    The poor pass on wednesday was the first time he has ever done anything remotely similar to that.

    1. I have to go out on a limb and say Michael Carrick is a poor player.. I agree with most of this article, although it is too gentle and maybe I will be a bit harsh? This is football though.

      I keep hearing that MC was influential in our champions league win in 2008? We had Tevez, Anderson and Nani signed that season to add to Rooney and Ronaldo. We had the best defence and attack in europe along with Scholes and a re-emerging Fletcher that season and just cause he he bagged 2 in a game that we blew out Roma in I was not and am not impressed by him.. (Oh and Hargreaves was integral for us that year).

      I call him backwards and sidewards Carrick but what has really upset me is the comment that he is like Andrea Pirlo.. Whoever wrote that has no business being at a computer. Pirlo Free-kick specialist 4 assists in world cup win in 2006 and integral to Milan's successes should be never mentioned with anyone who sounds like Carrick.

      Positionally he is good, I hear people say... he sits in front of the defense and hopes scholes is next to him.. The way he got bullied against Bayern showed how capable he is of defending as last man, we should put Brown or Evans there if we want protection. Carrick against Barcelona in Rome, lets not even go there as everyone was rubbish but this player we paid 14million more than spurs did and we had our trolleys pulled down. I could 100% do a better job than him in the middle of the park.. the guy is a pro athlete and can't run, can't beat a player and plays hollywood passes that aren't as good or effective as Ando's or Scholes.

      He doesn't score, doesn't tackle well and he's not even foreign to help the club's merchandising... Seriously he is a hindrance to Utd... We may still win this season but it won't be because Mike Carrick became a player of the season contender..

      I'm not a band wagon jumper, I have my own thoughts and I watch all the games in their entirity and watch re-runs on MUTV... People campaigned to get rid of Veron and champion this parasite

  11. Finally someone that has actually seen Carrick for what he is, a fraud,lol............he doesnt't really create anything, can't tackle, hell he cnt evn run box to box. Scholesy even at 50 will be better than Carrick. And as for being an integral part of the CL win a few seasons ago oh please tht ws because when you have rooney, tevez n ronaldo in front of u even i would look gud. He loses possesion far too easily is far too csaual and when he does lose the ball its usually costly..........last season against Bayern he lost the ball unnecassirily and that resulted in the corner that robben scored from. He is an appaling player that does not deserve to be wearing the man u shirt. Fletcher is another who seems to be vastly over rated and Wenger was right in regards to him he is anti football but as a squad player he's fine. Scholesy and giggsy aside Anderson is the only one that will go onto become a top player................he has just fallen back in last couple of seasons due to hargreaves being injured.............

    Lets hope Fergie sells Carrick because Utd have carried enough.......

  12. Shocking analysis....you clearly no very little about the game. Good to see there are a few people defending Carrick who really do understand football. Carrick is a great asset and invaluable to the team. He may not score many goals or fly into cruching tackles so as to make it clearly obvious but he covers a hell of a lot of ground, is always good with the ball at his feet, is the best in the premier league at changing defense into attack with one quick pass that most people would never have seen. It is a similar case to that of Alonso at Liverpool and the mug Benitez not seeing just how important he was to the team. He might have looked sexy but that ability to see and pick out a pass to start a quick attacking move rather than the obvious side way pass is priceless. If you don't like him, you're a mug just like Benitez...next time we play (particularly if you bother to go to a game) watch how many times he gets back into position to shepard the opposing team attack so that it fizzles out, breaks up opposition play, picks out a quick pass to start off a move and you'll see the difference he makes....I guarantee you're the type of person that thinks Fletcher is better asset (even though I like him)....its those slight differences though that make the difference between being Bolton and United.

    1. Well said my man. It can't be a coincidence that you purchase one player, you win the league and then with him in central midfield you go on to win the CL and get to another CL, win 3 of 4 EPL's with the most successful manager in England. That player must be a brilliant one unless you are saying SAF is not a great manager.

      By the way it is not true that most of his passes are sideways, don't get carried away by the press, assess properly for yourself, I have ALL of Man U games for at least the past 6 yrs recorded so I can confidently tell you that it's not true. I can also tell you that of all our midfielders he makes the most tackles/interceptions in or around our penalty box and loses the ball the least (oh yes

      1. " It can’t be a coincidence that you purchase one player, you win the league and then with him in central midfield you go on to win the CL and get to another CL, win 3 of 4 EPL’s with the most successful manager in England. That player must be a brilliant one unless you are saying SAF is not a great manager."

        Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez may well disagree with you there.

        By the way it is not true that most of his passes are sideways, don’t get carried away by the press, assess properly for yourself, I have ALL of Man U games for at least the past 6 yrs recorded so I can confidently tell you that it’s not true. I can also tell you that of all our midfielders he makes the most tackles/interceptions in or around our penalty box and loses the ball the least (oh yes)

        What an oddly specific statement and a hell of alot of DVR/Tape.

  13. Typical over the top article. Carrick is nowhere near as bad as you make him out to be. And if you want to use statistics to compare players, the least you could do is to think about what statistics you want to use.
    To compare Carrick and Mikel, who play the "screening role", here are a few more stats that might be worth comparing:
    Tackles: 2/2 for Carrick, 4/5 for Mikel - as you so rightly point out.
    Interceptions: 7 for Carrick, 7 for Mikel
    Clearances: 1/2 for Carrick, 0 for Mikel
    Blocks: 2 for Carrick, 1 for Mikel

    Adding them up as "defensive contributions", we have
    Carrick: 12/13
    Mikel: 12/12

    If you further include freekicks conceded as a negative contribution (None for Carrick, 2 for Mikel), you find (shocking!) that Carrick actually did better than Mikel. This is reinforced if you look at the pass stats (Carrick: 68/73 ; Mikel: 57/64). But that goes contrary to this gripping narrative, so let's just ignore all that.

    1. "None of this is to say that Michael Carrick is anything other than a very good player."

      Third. Paragraph.

  14. Chris McQuade...it's a poor analysis....no point arguing. You're entitled to your point of view, it's just that it happens to be very wide of the mark.

    If you can't see Carrick is instrumental to making the team tick that your error. You also clearly demonstrate your ignorance to how a real team works in your reply to another comment "perhaps this is self fulfilling but when have United ever needed someone to ‘hold the team together’. They attack. Attack, attack, attack" - You need a strong defensive unit to attack from or the second you break down you'll end up conceding....United's history of attacking football has always been built on a solid defence, which gives the attacking players more licence to attack. Look at the performances when we've been shoddy at the back and mising Rio and Vida - we've also been awful going forward....they look at the games when we have a strong back line...that's when we really slaughter teams.

    1. Ok, if you need a strong defensive unit, or to lift from the article

      "“Four years after the mauling in the San Siro prompted a strategic re-think, United are still bereft of the defensive shield that Ferguson has implicitly acknowledged is imperative if they are to succeed.”"

      Then why have a lightweight midfielder who doesn't tackle? Of all his qualities, defensive positioning and tackling is not his forte. I don't accept that Carrick is insrumental. I feel that his cool composed nature is unnecessary in United's current system. Much like the much-maligned in England Juan Seba Veron

      1. wrong again, he clearly gives us more defensive cover than any other midfielder in the side....like I said earlier, he doesn't fly into tackle but makes so many interceptions due to his ability to read the game. WATCH THE GAME PROPERLY AND OBSERVE HIM. You should just hold up your hands here and admit your wrong.....just like a fair few of the United fans that heckle him at the games.

        Get yourself a pen for the game tonight, count how many passes he intercepts, tackles he wins, and moves that start with him and then you can write back to me tonight.

  15. Goal.com called it. A solid 7 out of 10 for Carrick last night. In a game where we played with a loaded midfield where anderson was pushing forward and fletcher was running tirelessly, Carrick sat back and did the basics, which is exactly what we needed, especially after going one up. Could any "very good" midfielder have done that? Maybe...but you don't leave anything to chance in games like that and how much space he closed down last night and how many interceptions and vital tackles he made shows exactly what seperates carrick from any other "very good" midfielder.
    I know what you're saying though McQuade, if United were chasing a game, I would sacrifice Carrick before Fletcher or Anderson who are both more likely to make something happen in and around the box.
    The truth, though, is that United spend more time defending leads than they do chasing games and in those situations it really helps having a guy sat back in the middle of the park in front of the back four who has the composure and ability to command space that carrick does.

  16. I'm sure you know more than Sir Alex, if one of the greatest managers of all time thinks he has a role at United and you don't ; I wonder who is right?

    When Rooney and Carrick get back on form, I'm sure Carrick's assists will start flowing.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *