That man Michael Carrick continues to be in the headlines even when he is not playing. He has not featured in Manchester United’s last three games, which they have lost without even registering a goal.
Prior to that United won four matches on the spin, and that run coincided with Carrick’s return to the team from a previous spell on the treatment table. At 33, it seems he is the one player at Old Trafford that is indispensable to the cause.
He is the one player capable of injecting an impetus on the pitch with the right pass at the right time. He speeds up the play, dictates the tempo, and also does the odd job of intercepting the opposition’s worst intentions. News of his absence for the remainder of the season is, then, a huge blow.
Last Saturday’s defeat at home to West Brom was the most surprising of United’s three losses. They were superb away to Chelsea, and unlucky to loose. At Everton, they defended naively. At home to the Baggies they huffed and they puffed but couldn’t find a way past the excellent Boaz Myhill.
Indeed, the visiting skipper, former United favourite, Darren Fletcher, warned Louis van Gaal he must be challenging for the title next season. Scraping through and just holding on to fourth position (and there is no certainty they will) is okay for this season, the so-called transitional one. But, one is all he will be allowed.
It speaks volumes that despite the mega millions Van Gaal has spent, it is one of Fergie’s favourite old boys whose absence could prove critical over these final few weeks. And for all of the talk of United’s defensive frailties it is the midfield that warrants closer examination.
Was letting Fletcher leave the club a mistake? He could have done a neat job in front of the back four with Carrick unavailable. He may lack Carrick’s passing range, but he possesses energy in abundance, something that is curiously missing in some of the team’s worst performances.
In the summer Van Gaal will need to find a player to come into the side and eventually take over from Carrick, who can surely only have one more really good season ahead of him, if he can stay fit? Paul Pogba is said to be a target. He will be expensive, and an embarrassing reminder of one of Fergie’s few mistakes in his time at the club, allowing him to leave for free.
He just the player they need. He is strong, skilful, and young enough to run from box to box. He attacks as well as he defends. The £70 million price tag could, however, prove to be just too much humble pie for the accountants to swallow, for a player who left for nothing.
Manchester United fans: does Louis van Gaal need to sign a replacement for Michael Carrick THIS summer? Let us know below!