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Michael Carrick – Man United’s Heartbeat | Stats compared to Barry / Scholes

You don’t get a player who has had as many differing views about him as Michael Carrick. Usually heavily criticized by Manchester United supporters, Sir Alex Ferguson has always been an admirer of his ability and is always full of praise for him.

I believe it’s time to put his doubters to rest, because I have always regarded Michael Carrick as the unsung hero of Manchester United, especially in recent seasons. And there is no doubt that he will be such a key player for Man United this season.

I will present some statistics to show how not only has he improved his game over the last couple of seasons, but how he fares in comparison to his teammate Paul Scholes and how they complement each other as a midfield pairing. In addition, I will also compare Carrick to Gareth Barry, a player in a similar position playing for a rival club (Manchester City) and show how he is on par, or better in certain aspects of his game.

Comparison between Michael Carrick’s Performances in 2011/2012 Season and 2010/2011 Season

Firstly, we should note that Michael Carrick had more game time in the 2011/2012 season than the 2010/2011 season (2513 minutes vs 1975 minutes).

Secondly, his defensive attributes have improved over the years. His ground 50-50’s win percentage is higher (68% vs 58%), while his aerial 50-50’s win percentage is far superior (73% vs 45%). He made more tackles (90 vs 61) and made more interceptions (76 vs 60) as well.

Table 1: Michael Carrick 2011/2012 VS 2010/2011 season

Carrick’s strongest attribute has always been his passing ability, and from the statistics, we see that his total passes is far superior in 2011/2012 season than the 2010/2011 season (2210 passes vs 1443 passes). What makes it phenomenal is the fact that in spite of the superior number of passes in the 2011/2012 season, his pass completion rate in 2011/2012 season is still higher than the 2010/2011 season (89% vs 86%) is higher. This is the mark of a player who seems to be getting better at a trait he is already naturally gifted in.

Carrick’s attacking instincts have vastly improved as well. He is not really known for his attacking prowess, but there is a huge jump in his number of crosses (13 vs 7), with an increase in crossing accuracy (31% vs 14%). More importantly, he also has goals and assists to add to his game. (2 goals vs 0 goals, 3 assists vs 0 assists).

These key statistics show how Michael Carrick is getting better as he gets older. At 31 years, he is not the youngest, but he is slowly proving to be one of those players that get better with age. Think Giggs.

Comparison between Michael Carrick’s and Scholes’ Performances – 2011/2012 Season

Scholes is the undisputed midfield king of England, ‘passing teams to death’ as Sir Alex would say.  Have a look at Table 2’s statistics of how Carrick fared with Scholes in the recent 2011/2012 season.

Table 2: Carrick vs Scholes 2011/2012 season

From the table, we can clearly see that Carrick is more defensive than Scholes. Carrick has a higher percentage of more ground 50-50s win (68% vs 53%) and aerial 50-50s win (73% vs 57%), plus Carrick also has a better tackle success rate (67% vs 64%). This means that Carrick is a better defensive player than Scholes. However, Scholes seems to be a better attacking player than Carrick. Not only does he have a more successful pass completion rate of 93%, he has scored more goals (4) and has a better chance conversion rate (27%). But Carrick surprisingly has more goal assists to his name (3 vs 0), and we should note that Scholes played almost half the number of games Carrick has played.

We can definitely see the stark differences between the 2 types of players. The statistics show that Carrick is a more defensive player with far superior defensive attributes than Scholes. While he might not be the hard tackling Roy Keane type of player, he does complement a player like Scholes, giving him the freedom to dictate play and open teams up.

Comparison between Carrick and Barry – 2011/2012 Season

Now let’s have a look and see how Carrick fares with Barry, a player in a similar central position in a rival top club.

Table 3: Carrick vs Gareth Barry 2011/2012 Season

The first thing to note would be how Barry just about edges Carrick in defensive duties. Barry makes more ground challenges (301 vs 187) and especially so in aerial challenges (56 vs 11), despite Carrick having a better success rate at both defensive aspects. But where Carrick lacks in defensive ability, he more than makes up for it with his passing. Carrick makes more successful passes (he played 4 games fewer than Barry), has better pass completion percentage (89% vs 85%) and better open play passes completion (90% vs 86%). Attacking-wise, they both have almost similar statistics in terms of assists (3 assists each) and contribution in front of goal. Barry is an established England national, and he appears to be more highly rated than Carrick. But statistics show that there is little difference between them.


As mentioned, there seems to be the trend that Carrick is getting better with age – so going on this logic, chances are, this improving trend will continue this coming season. His ability is at the very least on par with top players from other clubs, as seen from the comparison with Gareth Barry. While fans might continue to criticize him, his stats would certainly beg to differ. I am convinced Carrick is a top player, and one of the best central midfielders in the Premier League.

In addition, the impending retirement of Scholes and Giggs and the infrequency of the number of matches they will play, along with the uncertainty revolving around Darren Fletcher and whether he will play again, plus the unreliability of the younger generation of Anderson and Cleverly; all this points to Carrick’s prominence as the main man in the middle. He will be even more integral to United this coming season.

Don’t be surprised if Manchester United doesn’t perform in the coming season, we can most likely see Carrick’s contribution (or lack of) to the team as a key factor. He is, after all, United’s heartbeat.

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