Manchester United missed the chance to go three points clear at the top of the Premier League over the Christmas period after a shock home defeat to lowly Blackburn Rovers. Just a few days later and the Champions now need a victory away at Newcastle United tonight to move level on points with leaders and rivals Manchester City.
After the disturbing result at Old Trafford against Rovers; in which Sir Alex Ferguson dropped Wayne Rooney and was without a whole host of injured players; midfielder Michael Carrick came in for some criticism from United fans and pundits alike for his role at centre half. One of the most consistent Premier League players over the years, Carrick was playing out of position and under pressure and did not look out of place up against the in-form striker Yakubu.
A product of the successful West Ham youth system, Carrick quickly became one of the Premier League’s best young midfielders at Upton Park before joining Tottenham Hotspur in 2004. An impressive spell at White Hart Lane convinced Sir Alex to fork out £18million two years later for Carrick who was bought to replace the departing legend Roy Keane.
It has taken time for the red half of Manchester to take to the North-East born midfielder, but this season he has shown his class in an injury stricken United side. After Paul Scholes retired at the end of last season, Fergie decided not to bring in a replacement as he was confident his current midfielders could step-up. But injuries to Anderson, Tom Cleverly and Darren Gibson along with defenders Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans have given Carrick the chance to play week-in-week-out and earn the praise that he deserves.
The England international is set to make his 250th appearances for United as he returns to his native city tonight in a huge game at the top of the Premier League. It is thought that Carrick could well return to his favoured central midfield position in the live game on SkySports and will no doubt put in a consistent, workman like performance that will not be praised by the likes of Ray Wilkins and Jamie Redknapp.
The word underrated is often used nowadays with regards to players in the English top flight, and I believe Carrick defines the word. His creativeness is obvious to see and his passing and vision is on the same level as the much missed Scholes. His height and aerial ability meant that Sir Alex was comfortable to play him at the back and as you could see with his brilliant individual goal at Queens Park Rangers this season, his work rate and determination is unquestionable along with a deceiving eye for goal.
Former United defender Gary Pallister has urged United fans to allow Carrick to prove his worth and agrees that the 30-year-old midfielder has been in excellent form this season.
“He is one of the players that if things go wrong the fans berate and put all the blame on but he has been terrific this season,” Pallister told Goal.com, “Michael has really come to the fore, especially during this injury crisis in central midfield and at centre-half. He has had a fantastic season up to this date.”
“His reading of the game is what makes him such an effective player. He understands the game inside-out and he puts himself in very good positions, especially when he is protecting that back four. Plus in terms of range of passing, he is possibly the best player at the club for that, certainly now that Scholesy has left. His long-range passing is great and his ability to keep things ticking along in midfield with short, simple passing is superb. He has loads more experience now as well and he is playing really well.”
A perfect explanation and description from Pallister that is worth taking in and with the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Jack Wilshere struggling for fitness or form, it is a matter of time until Carrick gets another chance for England and becomes a vital player for both club and country.
Do you think Carrick is deserving of more praise and a spot in the England midfield? Let me know below or on Twitter: @Brad_Pinard
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