The fundamental idea behind building a successful team and sustaining that success is having the right mix of youth and experience. After a few years of not getting this balance right, Manchester United could finally be heading to a stage where they can afford to buy young and upcoming talent – to go with a bunch of experienced personnel in their ranks who could implement a winning mentality they were ingrained with in their formative stages at the club.
The youngsters at Man United have shown, many a time this season, that they can handle the pressure and expectations of playing for Manchester United, but what has gone under the radar is the amount of influence the current veterans at the squad have had on the aforementioned success of youth. Wayne Rooney, as a captain has obviously had a big say on the sudden influx and rise of youth – while someone like Michael Carrick, one of the senior most players at the club having won everything he has to win with United bar the FA Cup, has been more of a calming influence, which by the looks of it, has paid rich dividends.
The midfielder who turns 35 this July, has been one of the main reasons why the transition for so many of these debutants has been seamless while usually that has never been the case, especially at a club the size of Man United – it is very easy to crack and wilt under the pressure and demands day in day out as shown by a certain Argentine last season, it can happen even to the very best. Michael Carrick has had what we could say has been a steady season in 2015/16. Certainly, not as influential as he was when United last won the league, three years ago – but at the same time, not his worst campaign, by any stretch of imagination.
His appearances have been limited this campaign and they should be by all accounts, after the circa £250m plus that has been spent under Louis van Gaal including the purchase of central midfielders Ander Herrera, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin who were supposed to rival Carrick for a place in the middle. The 34-year old has made 25 appearances in the league, in which he has played the entire game 14 times. Predominantly starting in a defensive midfield role, just in the front of the centre-backs, he has played the odd game at centre-back – for instance, in the 3-2 win against Arsenal in February, Carrick played a key role alongside Blind, organising the two inexperienced full-backs and bringing his intelligence to the fore.
His best game in the league probably came at the most pivotal time when United traveled across the road to the Etihad, needing a win and very few would have guessed that a 34-year midfielder would play such a crucial role for the winning side, and he did – flawlessly conducted proceedings from start to finish, with a bundle of composure and supreme elegance like John Williams in his musical heyday. His range of passing has probably rubbed off on skipper Wayne Rooney or so it would seem, as the 30-year old looks to replace his countryman Carrick in the long term – adapting his style to the rigor of playing with more positional discipline and creativity than he perhaps had to as a forward, in the past. In an interview with the club’s official website, he said,
“I think you’re obviously more involved in the game, you have a bigger influence from that position, I’ve tried to play what I’ve seen and I think it worked, with me and Michael [Carrick] having a bit more experience in there. We helped calm the game down when we needed to, especially after the equalizer, so I enjoyed it.”
All said and done, there has been no movement in terms of the Englishman’s contract situation with his current contract set to expire in the summer. Although this could be attributed to the indecisiveness at the top and the uncertainty surrounding the current manager, this is a decision that have should been taken long back and the fact that it has not been could be bad news for the team, who would potentially be missing out on a year’s worth of everything he brings to the table.
Whoever the new manager is in the summer and if there happens to be a new manager in the summer, he could make worse decisions at United right now, than offering the midfielder a contract extension.