Is Michael Carrick Underappreciated Because He Plays In The Premier League?

Is Michael Carrick Underappreciated Because He Plays In The Premier League?
Aug 27, 2017

Featured Manchester United

“It’s Carrick, ya know; it’s hard to believe it’s not Scholes”

Michael Carrick joined Manchester United back in the summer of 2006 and has gone on to become a Manchester United legend and has gone on to win everything there is to win in English Football with 5 Premier League titles and a Champions League title.

Having represented the club more than 700 times, it is no surprise that he has been one of the finest creations in English Football. Manchester United fans rate their club captain highly. But, overall, he doesn’t seem to get the praise he deserves. So, is he stuck in the wrong league?

Afterall, Michael Carrick is the same midfielder who ran the show from Midfield in Sir Alex’s final season which saw him getting a place in the PFA team of the year and also winning Manchester United Player’s player of the year award, the season in which Robin Van Persie scored 26 goals in the league. Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

Year in, year out he’s always controlled United’s game in the Middle third. Be it his performance against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the Quarter Final of the Champions League, 2011, where he made seven interceptions and succeeded in 8 of the 9 attempted tackles. Or his Semi Final Performance against Schalke where he completed 99 of his 113 passes and won the ball back 5 times.

Or Under LVG where due to his impressive Holding Mid Performances United beat Spurs, Liverpool, Aston Villa and bitter rivals, Manchester City in succession(14-15 season) with his performance against Spurs earning him Plaudits from every corner of England.

The run was ended by Chelsea in the absence of Michael Carrick. Coincidence? I think not. These are just some of his standout performances. And Carrick has done this consistently each and every season.

Pep Guardiola once said”I am a big fan of Michael Carrick. He’s one of the best holding midfielders I’ve ever seen in my life.” Let’s not forget he is the same manager who made Sergio Busquets one of the best in the world and also someone who has managed Xavi and Iniesta. High praise, indeed. Before coming to any conclusion, let’s look and understand Carrick’s playing style.

Carrick cannot be described as a natural defensive midfielder who would do the dirty work. Nor can he be considered a Box-to-Box midfielder. He can be conveniently described as a deep-lying playmaker or as the Italians call it, a Regista. While Italians’ idea of Regista doesn’t concern defending just because he sits deep, the English demand it.

The essence of that role is in orchestrating the play from deep inside your half. The idea behind the Regista is to create a team around him. The most famous Regista that comes to mind is Andrea Pirlo. The man who was the brain behind the legendary Milan side and most recently the dominant Juventus side.

The English game is fast and physical as it has always been. Teams in the Premier League believe more in the directness of the play rather than the aesthetics. Carrick has never been fast nor has he been physical. What he has is an unmatchable passing range and a tactical sense of positioning and the game overall. He can pick out a pass anywhere on the field and dictate the game.

However, with Premier League pundits and fans giving little admiration to someone who doesn’t dribble or has extraordinary individual brilliance, Carrick has been hugely neglected. Had he been a box-to-box like Steven Gerrard or a goalscoring midfielder like Frank Lampard, the case might have been different. However, we do not intend to compare the 3 players.

In the last 5 seasons, Carrick has had an average pass completion of 88%, the same as Andrea Pirlo in his last three seasons at Juventus. And, if you consider that Carrick did it in the English game, where you are afforded no or little time, then it’s even more remarkable. Plus, Carrick has more defensive obligations than Pirlo who was masterfully shielded by Vidal and Marchisio. Again, this is not a comparison. This is just a testament to Michael Carrick’s brilliance.

Moreover, Carrick has regularly been neglected by various England managers and always been used as a bit part player rather than a regular starter. What’s more baffling is the fact that he has been overlooked with English Managers favouring players with rather inferior talent and experience.

Carrick was an unused substitute in both 2006 and 2010 world cups and was left out of the 2014 world cup squad altogether. And, it’s fair to say that England could have done with some of the composure and experience that Carrick has endlessly brought to the Manchester United Midfield.

Also, one factor that could have played a part in Carrick’s undervaluation is the fact that he was always a team player and was never selfish for personal recognition. Carrick was occasionally used as a make shift Centre Back under Sir Alex Ferguson, David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal, all three of them, even though he had very few traits to make it there.

And remember, playing a Centre Back in the Premier League is no easy job which is why strong and imposing Centre Backs have always been preferred rather than technically superior and comparatively weaker. Carrick didn’t disappoint then too. With his ability to read the game and positional sense he always produced satisfactory performances.

Carrick has always given his best when it came to Manchester United and England and has never demanded for the spotlight. Carrick’s brilliance can be justified by the fact that he remains the only member from the 2008 Champions league winning squad of Manchester United.

Carrick will defintely go down as one of the most Underrated players in the history of the English game and also, one of the best professionals this sport has ever produced. In the end, I would like to end my hypothesis, with two quotes on Michael Carrick, given by two of the great managers in the English game, Sir Alex Ferguson (undoubtedly, the greatest) and Arsène Wenger.

Sir Alex Ferguson once said: “My first recollection of him was seeing him in the Youth Cup final for West Ham. We were looking for that central midfielder who could control the game and, of course, Michael moved to Tottenham.”

“I said ‘£18 million?! They must be off their head!’. But it’s one of those situations if you want the player then you have to pay.”

“His vision of seeing a forward pass is his great quality. There’s quite a lot of midfield players that are A to B passers, but when you got one who can penetrate with his passes and have a balance in terms of receiving the ball in, they’re worth their weight in gold.”

In addition, Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger weighed in on Carrick’s brilliance, labelling it as a ‘regret’ that he didn’t have the chance to manage Carrick. “One of my regrets is never having had him as a player because I think he was one of the greatest players in English football.”


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