Of all the English midfielders, Michael Carrick is probably the most misunderstood and certainly one of the most derided.
Perhaps the cause of this is the way we watch football now; most people develop opinions based on extended highlights, and as a result the reputation of players like Carrick suffer. Until you see him play live, you can never have an appreciation for how composed he is with the ball at his feet. What is it that they say about good players? They operate at their own pace, and dictate the temperament of the game around them.
That’s Carrick. Sit in a stand and watch him for ninety minutes, and then decide if he’s a good player or not.
Manchester United fans find it hard to love the Geordie; he’s neither Roy Keane nor Paul Scholes, he’s a completely different type of player. Both of those two – at their prime – were highly visible in the United midfield, their influence transcended most of the games they took part in. Carrick’s not like that – he’s a midfielder caretaker, he looks after the ball and distributes it, he never looks to impose himself on a game. English football doesn’t really have another player like him, there’s no other midfielder that can fade into the background whilst also retaining an influence through his distribution.
Yes, of course, he gives the ball away – but actually that’s more a symptom of how the team around him are performing than necessarily a measure of his own contribution. Carrick’s a pretty good barometer for how well United are playing, because he relies so heavily on the provision of passing options by those around him.
If you’ve watched England in the last few years, and sadly we all have, the most noticeable deficiency in our national side is in their ability to keep the ball. It’s an alien concept to players reared under the Premier League’s back-and-forth style – and each and every tournament it costs us dearly.
Who are the reigning World and European Champions at the moment? Who are the world’s most renowned proponents of possession football?
The answer’s the same for both questions.
Putting Michael Carrick into the England midfield would be a masterstroke from Roy Hodgson. Balance the all-action approach of a Gerrard, Lampard, or a Rooney with a steadying force – someone who can be trusted with the ball, and a player who can remove part of the ‘kick and rush’ ethos from our play.
Play Carrick alongside Scott Parker, with Steven Gerrard ahead of them, and you have a midfield trio who tick a lot of boxes. The hunter-gatherer style of Parker, the pyrotechnics of the Liverpool captain, and the metronomic qualities of the United man. That’s a really solid and balanced midfield.
Do it Roy.
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