Robin van Persie might win Manchester United’s Player of The Season awards when the season ends, but only a few United fans would argue against the importance of Michael Carrick in this campaign. Whether he’s partnered with Tom Cleverley or Ryan Giggs in the middle of the park, the central midfielder has been indispensable for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side where his metronomic role balances the team.
A run of great form and consistency Carrick has shown this season has made him a favourite among United faithfuls, as their latest terrace song cheekily tells how they cant believe it’s Carrick who sprays the ball around, not the much endeared Paul Scholes. It’s such a huge praise considering how some people regard Scholes as the finest English midfielder in the last 20 years.
Once considered over-priced by many when he was transferred to United from Tottenham for 18 million pounds, now the same critics have been crying about how Carrick has been criminally overlooked in England national team where he only has 26 caps to date.
After the FA Cup encounter against Chelsea on Sunday, Rio Ferdinand talked to the press about how the Geordie-born midfielder doesnt get the recognition he deserved.
[quote]Michael is the most under-rated and under-valued player in the league…..He is laid back and plays at his own pace, so he always goes un-noticed. But he is valued highly by each member of our squad. He has stepped up. ..You just wish players like that didnt have to go through their careers searching for accolades.[/quote]
By saying “he has stepped up”, Ferdinand echoing what many people believe that Carrick is playing better than last season. None other than Sir Alex Ferguson himself who nodded to the notion that Carrick is having his finest hours this season.
[quote]I think he’s been magnificent. It’s his best ever-season at the club and he’s commanding that position. He’s doing absolutely brilliantly.[/quote]
With United leading the table with 12-point gap, i was intrigued to find out how different Carrick’s statistical performance with last season when United only lost the title to Manchester City on goal difference.
Michael Carrick Defending
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As a holding midfielder, physical presence is not Carrick’s biggest attribute because he’s more renowned for his passing ability. However last season Carrick showed that he’s quite a formidable opponent on the ground, winning 68 % of the 50-50’s challenge. This season the numbers decrease significantly to 51 %, but he gets himself in the duel more often with engaging in a 50-50 every 13.83 mins.
Despite being 6 ft 2 in (188 cm), Carrick is also not known for his aerial prowess, so we may ignore the dropping success in aerial battle. But he’s a better tackler this season with 72.13 % success rate compared to 67.78 % last season.
Carrick is more cautious with the ball this season with only losing the possesion every 210 mins, compared to 93 mins last season. On the other hand, his stats show he wins more possession this time around. Carrick might not look like a midfield colossus but his ability to read the game well means that physical strength is not the only tool the stop the opponent’s attack.
Michael Carrick Passing
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With 2094 passes, Carrick leads the Premier League so far in the passing departement even though his open play passes (OPP) completion shows a slight drop from last season. Carrick has made 27 apperances in the Premier League this season and with 10 games remaining he seems likely to string more passes than last season when the league ends in May.
The most interesting fact in this stats is his passing in the attacking half and final 3rd are not as good as it used to be a year back. His attacking zone completion rate drops by 5 % while final 3rd completion one drops by 7 %. This, of course, doesnt get along with the general consensus that Carrick is better in the attacking build-up for United this season.
Michael Carrick Creativity
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Carrick’s slight drop in attacking zone passes completion this season is well-reflected in the creative departement. He created a chance every 81 mins last season, compared to every 89 mins this season. On the same tone, his clear-cut chances-to-minute ratio this season also tells that Carrick was better last season.
As someone who sits in front of the back four, Carrick is more a balance-keeper than the main playmaker for United. He often receives the ball from one of the defenders before distributing it to the front players. Creating chances on the other part of the field is not his primary job, but against a more defensive opposition, we often see Carrick in the final third, acting as pivot to spray the ball to all directions. This is the reason why some people would think that his creative stats would look better than presented.
Saying Michael Carrick is not better than last season will not go down too well with United fans. As someone who watches United regularly myself, i believe that he’s far more instrumental this season for Sir Alex Ferguson’s red army. However, while his defensive stats show that he has improved, attacking-wise Carrick has not shown anything new. I suspect that sudden praises sung in Carrick’s name have something to do with United being on top of the table.
It’s not that Carrick is now better than he has ever been before. He’s always been great and consistent for United. It’s just now United’s great run in the league this season makes it easier for the naysayers to appreciate Michael Carrick’s underrated talent.
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