There are those who scoffed at the inclusion of Michael Carrick on the short-list for PFA Player of the Year.
“But what does he actually DO?” seemed the cry from football fans who judge a player based on how many fantasy points he has accumulated, how many assists and how many goals he has scored.
While the headline grabbers were present and correct, his inclusion seemed out of place. Robin van Persie has scored the goals that have seen United coast to the league title and will undoubtedly be seen as player of the season for many. However, for those who know the importance of someone who can keep play ticking over, the recognition for Carrick has been a long time coming.
Ferguson has been one of those people. Speaking on his nomination to Manutd.com, he said:
“This has been Michael’s best ever season at United. He’s been absolutely magnificent. It’s amazing Michael has had to wait until he’s 31 to get nominated for anything but he deserves it.”
Just consider his medal haul in seven years. Five league titles, the Champions League and two League Cups. His arrival has brought a sophistication and an intelligent forward-thinking to United’s play. While those further up the field steal the glory, they are indebted to Carrick laying the foundations in midfield.
While he has yet to forge a regular partnership, Carrick has quietly gone about his business and provided an unrivalled level of consistency this season. That midfield additions are still being suggested is not a criticism of his performance, rather an assertion that he has performed above and beyond in running midfield without reinforcements.
His inclusion is proof that you cannot judge a player’s worth on fantasy team points alone. He rarely scores and he seldom provides assists but his worth can be seen by his ever-presence and status as an automatic starter. The phrase ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’ can be easily attributed to his contribution. Put simply, few are as imperative to the team’s success as he and there are few midfielders as complete.
In a landscape where brains outshines brawn, it should come as no surprise that Arsene Wenger thinks he could play for Barcelona.
Speaking about Carrick, Wenger said: “He is a quality passer. He could play for Barcelona, he would be perfectly suited to their game.
“He has a good vision and is an intelligent player, and it is for what he has achieved in his whole career as well. I think Carrick is an underrated player in England and sometimes not only should the goalscorer be rewarded but the real players at the heart of the game.”
These days midfielders have to be multi-dimensional. They have to control possession and show a nous of when to stick and when to twist. They must demonstrate speed of thought to anticipate danger and start attacks and few are better than Carrick.
To judge his worth based on statistics alone would be missing the point. Goals decide games yet sometimes the crucial pass is not the final one but the one that creates the space and opens the door. More often than not it will be Carrick with the simple, effective pass forward that sets attacking moves in motion.
That is not to say he cannot assist goals directly and few are better from a deep lying position to see a chance before a defence has had time to set itself. Of his occasional stellar moments this season it was Javier Hernandez who benefitted on both occasions.
There is the measured pass into space for a last minute winner against Newcastle United and the turn and chip over the top for the Mexican to accurately loop a header over Petr Cech against Chelsea. At first glance, both passes appeared hopeful yet that is to overlook the detail of anticipating the run before marrying it with a delivery that simply requires a first time finish.
For the Chelsea pass, the fact that more players went to celebrate with Carrick than with the goalscorer Hernandez is an indication of just how good that pass was.
Robin van Persie may have taken the headlines and the crowning glory yet Michael Carrick has performed to a high level consistently this season. His worth cannot be quantified in fantasy team points, no, the real worth of a player is fully appreciated when he is not there. You will miss him when he has gone so reward him with accolades while you still can.