While this may not be the best time to compare a player to a Barcelona player, after Barcelona were thrashed 4-0 by Bayern on Tuesday, Barcelona players still undoubtedly have talent. Michael Carrick also has immense talent, and this season has this season been re-invented by Sir Alex Ferguson as a focal point for Manchester United, playing as a ball playing midfielder. Carrick has become the metronome for Manchester United, controlling the tempo of games. Sir Alex has often played Carrick in the ‘Quarterback’ role for Manchester United. However, Carrick has also played at centre-back this season, and rather like Gerard Pique his former team mate, has shown a great range of passing and confidence; carrying the ball out of defence with swagger.
When Alex Ferguson lost the 2011 Champions League final to Barcelona, he commented: “They do mesmerise you with their passing”. Ferguson was given a tactical lesson by Pep Guardiola, but he seems to have learnt from Señor Guardiola’s tough lesson, trying to apply what he learnt to Manchester United. Manchester United this season have dominated the Premiership and still can break the record points total. They were very unlucky not to progress against Real Madrid, due to Nani receiving his controversial red card. Manchester United have had the 4th highest pass completion rate in Europe, at 85.6%. The key to their success has not been Robin Van Persie, who admittedly has been a big feature but dwindled until his hat-trick against Aston Villa, the key has been Michael Carrick. While making Manchester United more comfortable in possession, Ferguson made Carrick into the team’s heartbeat. Rather like Xavi of Barcelona, Carrick is always the player who Manchester United look to for as a quick out ball, or as their playmaker. Carrick also drops deep, like Sergio Busquets of Barcelona, to provide an easy outlet for the defence and to keep the ball moving. He has also scored a few goals, having scored 3 for this season.
Statistics wise, Carrick is one of the best passers in Europe. Up to April 5th, Carrick had a pass accuracy rate of 87.96% in the Premier League. That is more than 2% higher than his club’s rate of 85.8%. He currently leads the European charts for the most forward passes played this season, with a total of 1,584. That is over 200 passes ahead of the second best player, Mikel Arteta, and the third place player, Xavi. Suddenly comparisons with Xavi don’t look so stupid do they?
With Carrick impressing at club level, he could be a key figure for country too. England are looking to adopt a more possession based style, like all national teams after Spain’s amazing successes using tiki-taka. Roy Hodgson is playing Carrick more often in midfield and Carrick has the potential to be a key player for England at the 2014 World Cup. Some may argue that Carrick will be too old by then, at the age of 32; but Xavi’s best games were played when he was 32. If Carrick is deployed in the ‘Quarterback’ role for England, alongside Wilshire and Cleverley, England should be able to maintain crucial possession effectively. Carrick controlling the tempo and looking for passes to pacey wingers or the more dynamic midfielders, could, and should; be a key feature of England’s World Cup.
Carrick, rather like his teammate Scholes, has always stayed away from the limelight of media and publicity. He is also very underrated by the majority of fans and media. England cannot afford to not maximise Carrick’s international potential, like they did with Scholes. Without Carrick, Manchester United would have found the league title a lot harder to win. His class is further reflected by the fact that Carrick is on the final shortlist to win the PFA Player of The Year award, it is not often that defensive, central midfielders are nominated. He is one of six players in contention, along with Gareth Bale, Luis Suarez, Robin van Persie, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard. While forwards are usually favoured as everyone loves goal scorers, perhaps it is time for a creative, midfield workhorse to win the award. Michael Carrick deserves a lot of praise from fans and the media. Well done Mr Carrick, well done indeed.