Gary Neville has pin-pointed Michael Carrick as his player of the season after the Englishman’s introduction brought Manchester United’s season back on track.
The Englishman was initially consigned to the bench on Mourinho but soon established himself as a fundamental asset under the 54-year-old following splendid performances during wins over Manchester City and Swansea.
He made 38 appearances in all competitions this season and was, in light of another brilliant campaign, recently handed a one-year extension by the club.
And Neville, speaking on Sky Sports, noted that Carrick, more than any other player, was the one who invoked some much needed structure to United’s play this season.
“I think it’s taken a long time for Michael to be appreciated for his level of performance and the importance to the team and squad that he has, to this day,” he said.
“I think he brought the 2016/17 season back on track for United, at a point earlier in the season where, at times, the team needed stability and control. That changed every time he played, and Jose Mourinho recognised that he brought something to the team that isn’t always visible.
“I think when people come into the club, even coaches, it maybe takes them some time to understand that the team is just better with him in it. He composes everything, sorts everything out, makes sure there’s a balance, serves passes into strikers with a perfect weight.
“There were more obvious contenders for the club’s player of the season award, but Michael, for me, was the player who brought the season back on track and brought some order back to Manchester United.
“He’s a brilliant player and as a person, I just can’t speak highly enough of him. If there’s just one complaint I can have about him, it’s that he’s asked me to play in this testimonial, and the biggest compliment I can pay him is that if it was anyone else I’d have said no!”
That 1-0 win over Man City back in October, in hindsight, was the turning point for Mourinho. Prior to then his side had no discernible identity and, perhaps just as worryingly, no obvious place for Paul Pogba.
Carrick’s introduction and performance in that game changed everything. Suddenly United’s midfield was clearly defined, with the 35-year-old acting as a calm, metronomic force whilst Pogba surged forward and Ander Herrera did the dirty work, and Mourinho hasn’t looked back since. Supporters will be glad to see Carrick, perhaps for the last time, prolong his United career by another year.