Michael Carrick – loved and loathed in equal measures

It has been said before that Michael Carrick is underrated. Not by Manchester United fans, as they have seen over the past three years what a fantastic talent he is. But by the average football fan that doesn’t see him play regularly or at least look closely at his performances. The only reason for this that I can think of is because his style of play does not represent that of the typical midfield ‘enforcer’. You know, the Makelele-type ball winner, a player who dominates with destructive tackling, taking no prisoners. Carrick is not in the same mould, but doesn’t mean he is not as good.

While he is not a bad tackler, he would rather win the ball back through the art of interception and the ability to press and harry, forcing the opposition into less dangerous parts of the pitch and inevitably make mistakes. This part of his game often goes unnoticed – it does not excite like a crunching tackle – but it is so important to United’s success since Carrick arrived in 2006, for £18 million. Three league titles, one Champions League trophy and two League Cups, along with other near misses, prove that the former Tottenham player has had a great impact. Of course, he has wonderful players for teammates; some with the ability to turn a game on its head in an instant, but to win so many trophies a team must have an excellent midfield engine, and over the past three-and-a-half years Carrick has consistently been at the heart of it.

The 28-year-old’s stock has risen dramatically amongst the Red Devils’ faithful, after at first being seen as overpriced. But it just seems as though he is still simply regarded as a ‘decent’ player by many football watchers. He is far more than that and his range of passing sets him above most holding midfielders – short and long, he’s always likely to find a colleague in a red shirt – and it is the speed at which he does this that is most impressive. It is this vision that helps United play with such a good rhythm and links the defence to attack.

For these reasons I believe he has been slightly unfortunate not to play for England on more than the 21 occasions he already has. There are limited places up for grabs, it must be said, but when Carrick came on against Egypt last week he really helped the Three Lions with his purposeful passing and allowed Gareth Barry and Steven Gerrard to have more influence in an attacking sense. I could see him proving to be a vital part of the squad for South Africa. It has always been said that England need to start matching up to the other top nations’ ability to keep the ball and Carrick will aid in that quest. We also know that he is a big-stage player and the World Cup would not faze him, and there is a good chance he will continue his 100% record of League titles at Old Trafford in May. Anyone with such a great personal record for achieving should be utilised fully by Fabio Capello in the summer. Maybe then Carrick will finally be appreciated by football followers, not just of a United persuasion, for the very good player that he is.