Carrick will always be a catalyst in the Manchester United midfield but never the main ingredient

(Michael Carrick needs to come out of Scholes’s shadow and learn to control the midfield on his own)

Before you look away I’ll just inform you that this not another one of those “Carrick bashing” articles where the author rips into the Manchester United midfielder’s performances and criticizes him heavily.

I, for one have been one of Carrick’s biggest fans since his Tottenham days. His passing, his vision, his positional-sense, his two-footedness and his shooting ability from range made him stand-out in that Tottenham side. He “looked the part” and won many rave reviews and also an England call up for the 2006 World Cup.

But since his 18m transfer to Old Trafford, Carrick has been just one of those players whose opinion among fans has been divided. While some appreciate the discipline and stability (possession wise) he brings to the United midfield, others criticize his conservative approach.

Now I get back to my topic of discussion as to why Carrick will only be a catalyst in Manchester United’s midfield and never be the main ingredient.

Carrick played an integral part in United, reclaiming the title in 2007 and winning the Champions League in 2008. But at the annual awards function 07’, the Premier League team of the year consisted of 8 United players and poor Michael wasn’t on the list.

Carrick’s main job at Old Trafford since the departure of Roy Keane has been to intercept lose balls, keep possession and pass it to Paul Scholes who set the tempo of United’s attack. In other words he brought the best out of Paul Scholes. That role may have suited Carrick, Scholes and United at that time as the red devils romped away with 3 consecutive Premier League titles. But with Scholes losing his legs, the Stretford End faithful expect more from Carrick – a player who had shown all the promise, talent and potential to one day take the mantel from Scholesy himself; something he has failed to do.

This was clearly evident in United’s recent match at Southampton, where Carrick who made 115/126 passes at an accuracy of 91%, failed to make any real impact on the game. At times in the match it looked like Michael and Tom were not on the same wavelength and it took the introduction of a certain Paul Scholes to change the game in United’s favor. Scholes set up RvP with a brilliant through ball with what was only his second touch of the ball.

Carrick needs someone playing close to him in a deep lying regista role so that he can maintain possession neatly with his short passes. With Anderson and Cleverley, who look to bomb forward, Carrick is left dwelling on the ball far too long in his search for runners ahead of him (note that Welbeck and Valencia were pretty static in the first half). With Scholes alongside him, Carrick feels more calm as there is always a safety outlet for him, a person who always makes himself available for a pass when Carrick is put under pressure.

After a year long blip, Carrick really came to his own last season and produced some eye catching displays. But having watched Carrick over the years one can only wonder how much more he could have offered.

Carrick who just turned 31 this year is now one of the senior players in the United dressing room. With Scholes and Giggs set to play cameo roles this season he needs to be the leader on the pitch to guide the likes of Kagawa (23), Cleverley (23) and Anderson (24). With pace not one of his key attributes Carrick could easily have another 5 years at the top level but he will need to use all that he has learnt from Scholes during the past 6 years an become the main man in United’s engine room.

I, for one, often tend to scratch my head in search of an answer as to why Carrick shies away from taking on the responsibility of “Scholes role” as the playmaker as he has everything in his locker that a modern day midfielder needs. Is it his attitude? Does he feel intimidated by playing in a star studded squad? Does he feel like a small fish in a large pond?

I guess only Carrick himself may have an answer to that question. But if there is something in his head that is holding him back then he will need to sort it out, or else he may only be a catalyst in this Manchester United midfield – someone who plays well when surrounded by great players; but will never be the ingredient around which Sir Alex hopes to build his future midfield around.

– by Rohit Shankarmani

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