A year on after Wayne Rooney’s testimonial against his boyhood club Everton, 36-year old Michael Carrick will be honoured with a similar celebratory fixture, on the 4th of June at Old Trafford.
The testimonial will see members of the famous 2008 side managed by Sir Alex Ferguson face a select group of distinguished colleagues handpicked by Carrick himself – masquerading under the name, Michael Carrick All Star XI. In addition to this being a great gesture by the club to acknowledge one of its outstanding servants in the last decade, it also serves as a reminder of how quickly time has moved on and how steadily but surely the club is attempting to steer clear from its illustrious recent history – in a bid to write fresh stories.
The midfielder who made 38 appearances in a long season for United recently signed a one-year contract which will keep him at the club until the end of 17/18 . It will be his 12th season in a remarkable career for the Red Devils, since putting pen on paper for the first time in the summer of 2006.
Very few managers value experience and winning mentality more than Jose Mourinho and it was no surprise that he wanted to keep one of English football’s most decorated midfielders – a winner of 5 Premier League titles, 4 domestic cups and 3 European/International trophies – in his ranks to help him lead a formidable challenge to win the league next season.
Mourinho’s response to Michael Carrick signing a second one-year extension under his management was concise and heart-felt. He said,
“I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Michael over this past season. He is one of the true professionals of the game. Not only is he a great footballer, he is also a fantastic human being and a great role model to our younger members of the team. I am delighted he has extended his contract and I would like to take this opportunity to wish Michael all the best for his well-deserved testimonial match next Sunday.”
Carrick’s influence off the pitch has never been in doubt. Being one of the few players remaining at United who knows what it takes to win all types of silverware, have a long and successful career at the highest level and no stranger to pressure – where second chances come at a premium, the 36-year old is the ultimate model of professionalism that any young and aspiring footballer at United would want to follow.
But what surprised many, including myself, was how he steadied United with his own composure and calmness on the pitch, to get Mourinho’s first season back on track, when at one stage it was dangerously heading towards a brick wall.
From appearing in the last 12 minutes against Leicester in a 4-1 win, Carrick, at 35 (at the time), very quickly re-established himself as a regular in the side – at the heart of midfield under a manager whose strongest teams were built on the physicality and athleticism of their midfielders, and he had neither.
Carrick played a full 90 minutes for the first time against Fenerbahce in the Europa League at Old Trafford – which United would incidentally win by a similar scoreline, 4-1, and never looked back. The midfielder went on to play the full 90 minutes in his next 11 appearances, the final one in that run, coming on the 2nd of January, defying age, in fact wearing it as armour, and Manchester United did not lose a single game in that spell, an unbeaten stretch that was most crucial for the Red Devils to build on for a fixture-congested second half.
This is why it makes complete sense that Carrick’s contract extension is once again one of the most important squad-related issues that the manager had to address. The Players’ Player of a memorable 2012/2013 campaign – the last time United lifted the league title, will be integral in so many ways to any kind of pursuit for the summit.
For a player who was under-appreciated and overshadowed almost throughout his career, it is fitting that he will get to enjoy an occasion dedicated to celebrating his career and singing his name in the presence of teammates and contemporaries, while also donating to the causes that he holds dear.
Hard to believe it is not Scholes, indeed.