The legendary English midfielder will join Jose Mourinho’s staff next season, as he retires from competitive football.
Michael Carrick walked out to the Old Trafford turf for the last time as a player yesterday. Emotions were running high at the Theatre of Dreams, as the legendary United midfielder received a guard of honour. Carrick then, during the game, hit a vintage 50-yard pass to Juan Mata, which led to the only goal of the game. The Watford defenders stood there like dummies. Michael Carrick, even as he signed off, provided a moment of magic.
The only moment of magic in the game.
When we look back to this era and count the top English midfielders, we will have a handful of names. We will remember the technical prowess of Paul Scholes and the versatility of Steven Gerrard. We will also fondly look back to Frank Lampard’s attacking runs from the centre. However, most of our memories will, somehow, forget to recollect a certain midfielder. His ability to dictate the game from the middle of the pitch, complimented by sleek forward passes which seem to glide through the players, was left underappreciated.
Michael Carrick has retired from football. He wasn’t really a player one can relate with a fancy 25-yarder or a hard-tackle to the shins, like most English midfielders. And this could possibly be the reason he lived his career under the shadows of his much-appreciated colleagues.
Carrick came to Manchester United at a time when the club was struggling. A young Portuguese named Jose Mourinho took the Premier League by storm, winning two back-to-back titles. Liverpool won a Champions League title in 2005, and Arsenal reached the final an year later. Manchester United, on the other hand, were struggling, both in domestic and intercontinental competitions.
“I think he’s an underrated player for England,” Arsene Wenger said about him. Midfielders like Xavi Hernandez and Xabi Alonso have also praised Carrick in the past, saying that he is a “complete player.”
United’s star striker Ruud van Nistelrooy had a training bust-up with a young Cristiano Ronaldo, and left the club. Roy Keane had differences with management and left United midway. Ronaldo made signifying gestures after playing a role in Wayne Rooney’s red card in the 2006 World Cup. In simple terms, the Old Trafford wasn’t really a festive place at the time.
With the core of the team relatively young, the club’s faithful demanded new signings. In turn, Sir Alex Ferguson spends 18m on a young midfielder from Tottenham.
Manchester United’s only buy of that summer.
Questions were raised, and some discussed as far as Sir Alex Ferguson tarnishing his legacy. In the next seven seasons, Manchester United won five Premier League titles. United also lifted their third UEFA Champions League title and reached final in two other seasons. On both occasions, they lost to Pep Guardiola’s FC Barcelona, one of the finest teams footballing world had ever seen.
There were many factors to United’s success. The rise of Cristiano Ronaldo, and the partnership between Ronaldo and Rooney were at the centre of it all. But a truly remarkable point was Michael Carrick’s signing. The English player instilled fresh blood in a midfield which was getting relatively old.
Carrick was a brilliant passer of the ball. One of the major qualities of Michael Carrick was to play short, incisive passes consistently, with incredible ease. He would play a pass, make himself available for the next one, and knew his next pass even before the ball came to him.
But it doesn’t mean that Carrick shied away from playing those 50-60 yarded Hollywood passes. Throughout his time, Manchester United has always been strong attacking team on the widths. Carrick played diagonals with the similar ease he would play a short pass through the attacking line.
Michael Carrick won 18 trophies with Manchester United, which include 5 Premier League titles and a UEFA Champions League title.
There have always been discussions about the inability of Gerrard and Lampard in playing together for England. And it is quite unfortunate for England, that the managers at the helm of national side never seemed to trust Carrick enough with his football abilities. But then, England has hardly used their best players to optimum abilities in their national side. Michael Carrick would’ve allowed Gerrard and Lampard to go higher up the pitch, utilising their potential to maximum abilities.
But his lack of time with England may have possibly been a boost in his Manchester United career. Carrick was one of the most consistent players in the Manchester United squad. Carrick’s later years have been difficult, with age catching up and a heart disease, but his off-the-field stature continues to grow.
Pep Guardiola, after the 2011-Champions League final, said that Carrick is the only player who would make it to current FC Barcelona side. There could be no higher praise for Carrick at that time, as Barcelona won, quite practically, everything they played in that era. Pep Guardiola had been a defensive midfielder himself in his time at FC Barcelona, which adds value to the compliment.
Michael Carrick is a well-respected figure among the footballing circles in England and beyond. Hence, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Manchester United doesn’t want to let the services of Carrick go. The midfielder will assume coaching role with the club from the start of next season.
Michael Carrick won countless trophies at Manchester United. However, the midfielder won only 34 caps with England. For whatever it’s worth, the latter had a far bigger share of loss.