Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand believes Michael Carrick is currently one of the finest midfielders in the world.
The Englishman, who signed a contract extension over the summer, failed to immediately impose himself on Jose Mourinho’s starting XI during the early stages of the season.
However, in a run that started with Man United’s 1-0 League Cup win over Manchester City in October, Carrick has made 15 starts – 13 of which resulted in wins, with Mourinho’s men scoring 39 goals in the process.
And Ferdinand, speaking to ManUtd.com, made it clear that the 35-year-old was still one of the best in world football.
“What he needed to do was find a formation and find the personnel to fit it,” he said.
“He’s come across it, and the real crux of that was within the football club when he got there, and that’s Michael Carrick. I said it under Louis van Gaal and David Moyes: Michael is so crucial to the football team.
“It’s obvious how good he is on the ball, but I think more important is how he is defensively.
“The roving eye just looking for an entertaining football match probably won’t see it, but in terms of defensive positions and shielding the back four, he’s one of the best I’ve played with. I think he’s the best around at the moment.
“When there’s a turnover and Michael receives the ball, he doesn’t play it sideways if he doesn’t have to; he’d rather play a ball through the lines and into the attacking third.
“Our most dangerous players are our attacking players and they need the ball quick and early. Over the last few years, we were playing so slowly that other teams were able to get back into their two blocks of four and wait for us to break them down.
“That becomes difficult, no matter who you are, whereas when Carrick plays, he gets the ball, plays it through the lines and then our attacking players are facing the opposition’s back four, which gives us more opportunities to get shots off or create chances, and goals are scored this way.
“He’s a vital component to the way that works, and also to Mourinho’s tactics. There aren’t many players in the world who can carry that out, but Michael is one.”
Perhaps the greatest illustration of Carrick’s brilliance, ironically, is that – in the past few years – he hasn’t had a sniff in the England side. His exclusion is not due to a lack of ability; his exclusion, rather, is predicated by the fact that he plays in the least English of ways possible.
There is no sense of rapid urgency and a desire for ‘passion’ – two fundamental facets of your typical ‘English’ midfielder – in Carrick’s game. His style revolves around patience, intelligence and poise, always calmly controlling the game without visibly doing very much at all. It is, needless to say, a wonderfully unique, effective style, and United fans will hope to see the 35-year-old remain at the base of Mourinho’s midfield for as long as possible.