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The uncomplicated individual who will leave behind a storm
The news broke incredibly late last night and just like it has been throughout his career, no big tabloid headlines were formed to speak about him. This morning I used my Times membership to frantically search for any tributes given to Michael Carrick as he will call time on his playing career. Yet, quite characteristically, nothing other than the report of him retiring and joining the coaching team of Manchester United was available to treasure. Arguably one of the most crucial parts of the last golden generation that the most successful team in English football had, Carrick was the one constant amongst a constellation of stars. No flair, no arrogance and stealing Roy Keane’s words when talking about Paul Scholes, “no celebrity bullshit”. As he enters the last four months of his extraordinary career, we should treasure the last moments we see this magician on the field.
“He is one of the best holding midfielders I’ve ever seen in my life by far.” You would think the opinion of Pep Guardiola would ring true with a lot of football fans and pundits alike, but that could not be further from the truth. A player who came through the ranks at West Ham alongside Joe Cole, Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard, Carrick was always going to have his limelight on second, third or in this case fourth chances. For the most part, football fanatics want entertainment and that comes in the forms of dazzling dribbles or great goals. Carrick’s game isn’t based on those two factors, his main asset has been to make the players around him play better. In his final season at Tottenham, Carrick was undoubtedly the best midfielder at the club because he allowed his teammates to press forward and play the attacking football that so nearly got them the Champions League spot they craved. By this time, at least amongst the elite of football managers and pundits, Carrick was ready to move onto the next level and that meant one club, Manchester United.
Taking on Keane’s shirt number and place would seem like a daunting prospect to most, but Carrick is a sportsman who doesn’t seem to let anything phase him. Process, not outcome is a saying athletes often refer to in high pressure situations and the man from Wallsend looks like he lives by that principle. His partnership with Scholes at the beginning of his Manchester United career was critical to the way the team played. Gary Neville said it perfectly once. When other pundits were saying Lampard and Steven Gerrard were better than Carrick and Scholes due to them scoring more goals, Neville pointed out something extremely pertinent. “There are several ways to win a football match by the way. It is not just possible by scoring a goal. The reason that Manchester United team scored so many late goals was because Scholes and Carrick dominated possession and the opposition would get tired out.” Furthermore, midfielders are often liked more if they look like they are putting in 100% effort all the time. With Carrick’s game, the simple reason he doesn’t put in all his effort all of the time because he doesn’t need to. He values positioning and the mind much more than running around like a headless chicken. For that reason, he is valued so much more by his coaches and teammates, rather than fans like us.
So, the last four months lie in wait for Carrick to complete one of the most successful careers we have seen in this country. However, due to the type of player he is, it is likely that Carrick is going to be appreciated much more when he stops rather than when he is playing.