After winning the FA Cup last May, it completed the trophy cabinet of one of Manchester United’s most senior players; Michael Carrick. Carrick had been at the club for a decade but the FA cup had alluded him under both Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes, so when he finally got his hands on the famous trophy it seemed like a poetic ending to the Old Trafford career of United’s most consistent midfielder in recent years. His contract ran out on the 1st July and leading up to the cup final he still had not been offered a contract extension and all the signs seemed to suggest that his days playing in red were over, with reports even coming out that Louis Van Gaal never intended on offering the Englishman a contract extension.
However, when Jose Mourinho was appointed as manager of the Red Devils then one of his first acts was to hand the almost out of contract Carrick a new one-year deal. This was great news for United’s vice-captain, however it effectively ended the United career of his teammate Bastian Schweinsteiger, with ‘the Special One’ seemingly only seeing room for one experienced controlling midfielder in his squad for the season. Carrick initially looked to be a key player for Mourinho having appeared in the first friendly of Mourinho’s reign against Wigan, and also starting the Community Shield in the victory against Leicester.
Yet, with the signing of Paul Pogba and Marouanne Fellaini finding himself as Pogba’s midfield partner Carrick seemed to have slipped down the pecking order in United’s midfield behind Pogba, Fellaini, Ander Herrera and Morgan Schneiderlin. But with United losing three games on the bounce and failing to control any of these games from start to finish it seemed like United were crying out for a pass master like Carrick to dictate the pace of the game from the midfield, and he was finally given an opportunity to do so against Northampton in the EFL Cup. Carrick scored a beautiful first time finish to hand United the lead in the game and was awarded as Sky’s man of the match.
This has led to calls for Carrick to find a place in the starting XI in United’s first team, with him seemingly being the perfect partner to get the best out of Paul Pogba. Carrick has the ability to simply sit in front of the back four and spray the ball around the pitch creating chances and transitioning defence to attack easily for Mourinho’s side. The fact that he will anchor the midfield would also give more freedom to Pogba to roam around the pitch and contribute to the attack without leaving gaps in defence. Carrick is an expert at dictating the pace of the game, and his passing range would suit any of United’s wide men, as well as Zlatan Ibrahimovic up front. The obvious problem with Carrick being a first team regular is his age, now 35 years old he doesn’t have the stamina to be able to complete 90 minutes every week, but a way to keep him fresh and able to play more games for United could be to play him in a midfield trio with himself, Pogba and one of Herrera, Fellaini or Schneiderlin. Any of these three players would be able to do the running for Carrick and allow him to preserve energy, therefore keeping him fresher and allowing him to play in more games.
Now, I’m by no means saying that Carrick should start every single game for United, it’s impossible for a player of his age to do so. But I am saying that he must play more regularly than he has this season. He is United’s best passer of the ball and if Daley Blind isn’t playing then the Red’s lack that killer through ball that can be played up the pitch from deep, a ball which Carrick is also an expert at playing. Mourinho may have kept him around at Old Trafford for his experience and knowledge of the dressing room, but he still provides equal value when on the pitch, as proved against Northampton.