Why Carrick’s injury has now proved even more untimely

Football FanCast
columnist
Rob Swan feels
that Michael Carrick's injury at Manchester United has now proved even more
untimely.

News that Paul Scholes faces up to eight weeks out as a
result of medial knee ligament damage sustained in last night's 3-0 victory
over Aalborg couldn't have come at a worse
time for Manchester United. Had Michael Carrick been fit, Scholes' pending
absence may not have caused as many anxious thoughts amongst the United
faithful, and that's because of the similarities that the two players share – a
huge credit to the way Carrick has performed since his move from Tottenham two
seasons ago.

Although Carrick has never been hailed as the most naturally talented centre midfielder
in the Premier League; the role that he plays, when fit, can never be
undermined. Incisive, tidy passing is a feature always assured when Carrick
wears the number 16 shirt – the squad number his legendary predecessor, Roy
Keane, made famous during his hugely successful years at the club – although
the differences between Carrick and the now Sunderland manager in terms of
mentality are vast.

Unlike the fiery persona that Keane became infamous for showing on a weekly
basis, Carrick often appears to be at the other end of the anger spectrum
altogether, with his cool, calm and collective approach to his role in
midfield. Despite this laid-back presence, the England midfielder's attitude
towards ensuring he plays his part in driving United forward is far from
half-hearted.

Rarely does Carrick waste possession. His pass completion rate is one of the
highest of any midfielders in Europe and this was clearly evident in last
season's Champions League campaign, where an impressive 83% of his passes
reached their intended target up until the final game against Chelsea
in Moscow. His
ability to spot and play the simple pass, as well as the 40-yard defence
splitting ball, puts him near to Paul Scholes in terms of passing ability, a
level which none of the other midfielders at Manchester United could even dream
of getting close to.

And this is the main concern. With both Scholes and Carrick out, the onus will
fall on the likes of Anderson, Owen Hargreaves, Darren Fletcher and the man who
the term 'creative midfielder' could
never be applied to in a million years, God bless him, John O'Shea. Although
these players have their own strengths which are utilised by Sir Alex Ferguson
when required, they don't necessarily possess the same ability to frequently
make the right decisions as the other two, most noticeably when it comes to
passing. Ryan Giggs is the one player who could well step in and play the 'Paul
Scholes' role, but at nearly 35 and playing a largely unfamiliar role, would he
really be the best short-term option with crucial games coming up?

Although Carrick would make the majority of the United fan's first choice XI's,
the biggest criticism that the Newcastle-born midfielder has faced is his
inability to take a match by the scruff of the neck, to truly stamp down his
influence and to be the dominant figure on the pitch. After two seasons of
waiting it doesn't appear as if this transformation will happen any time soon,
but this isn't a major concern when the side contains the likes of Rooney,
Berbatov, Tevez and Ronaldo. Obviously, Roy Keane was Mr. Manchester United
when he took to the field, and the search for any comparisons between the
Irishman and his successor was the thing most focused on during his first few
months as a United player.

Since then, people have come to respect the fact Michael Carrick is an entirely
different brand of midfielder. So different in fact, that it would be quite
hard to label the 27-year-old a holding midfielder at all. Because of his
softer approach to his role in midfield, you rarely witness Carrick mercilessly
diving into challenges and picking up bookings in the same way that Keane did,
or the likes of Chelsea's Michael Essien and Liverpool's Javier Mascherano currently do. His game is
not centered around tackling, and this is why having a player like Hargreaves
alongside him often brings out his ability to orchestrate the flow of a match.

He may not be blisteringly quick, he may not be that strong in the challenge
and may not have that that ability to inspire his team like Keane could, but
Carrick does bring much needed stability when it matters most. He provides a
cool head when others around him may begin to lose theirs, and his brilliant
range of passing is second to none. Not only that but he can also score goals
too, and unlike most other English players – Hargreaves not included – he can
also take a penalty.

The next few weeks will be a big test for the resolve of Carrick's midfield
teammates, who will all need to rise to the occasion and fill the void left by
Michael Carrick, now made considerably bigger as a result of the injury to Paul
Scholes.

Article title: Why Carrick’s injury has now proved even more untimely

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