Thoughts of a Manchester United season ticket holder
Tuesday, 27 April 2010
The deconstruction of Michael Carrick
It seems like yesterday that we were all bleating on how Michael Carrick should be the anchor for the Lampard/Gerrard England midfield. Yet here we are, five minutes before a World Cup, and the boy cant even get in the United side ahead of the aging legs of Scholes and Giggs, and the inexperience of Darron Gibson.
What has happened to Carrick this year is baffling. Never a player of swaggering arrogance, the Geordie boy was initially bought to complement the less defensively disciplined midfielders at the club, and to add a touch of calm to the sometimes erratic and bombastic style of the team. The idea was to let Carrick develop into the player we knew he had the talent to be...a player who could both defend and attack..score goals of immense quality but still do his defensive work..but something, somewhere has broken.
As Darren Fletcher has blossomed into a player of genuine pedigree, Carrick has dilly-dallied his way through 2009/10. Neither disastrous or excelling, he has done what many players who struggle with form over a long period do..and that is continually roll the dice with lady luck to keep his head above water. And that luck ran out in the second leg versus Bayern in the Champions League. His performance of epically poor proportions that night resulted in the Germans two goals. It was a bit of bad luck waiting to happen to a player that has hid in the shadows for most of the season. And it has cost him, and his team, greatly.
Carrick's turning point came last year in the Champions League final against Barca. A masterclass by Xavi and Ineista didn't mask how poorly the central midfield of Carrick and Anderson did that night. I believe you can trace back all of Carrick's poor form right back to that one solitary night. His confidence has never quite been the same, and the fragility of his mental make up since that night is hugely worrying to The Faithful. A bit like Berba, Carrick plays the game at one speed. He is never gonna give you a blood and thunder tackle or a lions roar. So when things are not going right for him he simply doesn't have the tools to fight his way out of the corner. His calm is probably both his greatest asset and his worst enemy. The point where class gets interpreted as being short of a pair between your legs.
Ferguson is well aware of all this and that is why he has pulled him from the firing line. But what it has done has left the team relying on the old boys again, and that is worrying for Carrick's future at the club. Much has been made of our lack of invention and goals from midfield. Scholes and Giggs will be gone and retired within the blink of an eye soon, and there is nothing else like them at the club that even comes close to doing what they do. Carrick should have been one of their heirs apparent. But can Fergie really trust him going forward...when he needed individual players to stand up and be counted after losing his best player, and a pretty good Argentinian chap? Fergie needed his midfielders to batten down the hatches this year. Fletch has read the script and done it. Gibson has showed he may be able to do it in the future. Anderson failed but in many ways getting injured saved his reputation! Carrick however, despite a promising run around Xmas, has deceived too many times.
He is walking the plank now in United fans eyes..hanging on to the coat tails of a certain Bulgarian. It would surprise none of us if he is traded out of the club in the summer, but it also wouldn't surprise anyone if he was still in the squad come pre season. If he is, then he has got to grasp the opportunity with both hands.
Because it will not take long to decipher if he knows the dance or not, by simply watching his feet to see if he knows the steps.
Manchester United fan since the age of 9 when he saw Norman Whiteside curl the ball into a Wembley goal in the dying minutes.
He is an Old Trafford season ticket holder in the North Stand Tier 3...and cried tears of joy, on his knees with the many in Moscow.
Rob is a contributing author/editor at Man Utd blogzine 'The Faithful'