The subject of much disdain amongst fans over the past two seasons, Michael Carrick has silenced many a critic with his consistently impressive performances this season. The departure of Paul Scholes and lack of replacement placed great pressure on the shoulders of Michael. He needed to step up or step out of the United line-up this season and he chose the latter.
The thing that makes Carrick such a debatable character is the fact that the importance he plays to United is not obvious unless you watch a match intently. He will rarely be caught out of position and brings a structure to the midfield that SAF has become dependant on this year.
In years previous, particularly 2007/8, Carrick was a more attacking midfielder. He ventured forward regularly in a campaign that saw United win the Premier League and the Champions League. However, he has changed his style in order to help the team and it has provided great dividends.
When Carrick was injured at the start of the season, United leaked shots on goal and goals themselves. In the three matches that Carrick didn’t play in at the start of the season, United conceded three goals. In the ten games after that he did play a part in, United conceded just four.
Without Vidic in the team, United needed a leader to organise and Carrick played a major role in this. His tactical awareness is second to none and he always seems to be in the right position at the right time, such is his prowess. He has, on countless occasions, stuck a leg in to make a cracking tackle or made a well timed interception to bring the ball back up the pitch for us. It is these sorts of things that you don’t see on Match of the Day and mean that many a person doesn’t realise the significance of his role in the team.
However, for me, it is his passing game that makes it so apparent how important he is to us.
Having completed 1648/1826 passes (90.3%) this season, he has been the backbone of United’s possession game. Last year, he went a whole campaign without a goal but with two to his name so far, goals are back on the agenda. The re-appearance of Paul Scholes has brought the best out of Michael Carrick because it gives him a partner to dictate play with.
This season has definitely been the best since the 2007/8 campaign from Michael, be it confidence or a change in attitude or the insatiable desire to stop City winning the league. It was exactly the tonic that Carrick needed at United as fans have re-kindled their love for our red Geordie.