After signing a new one-year deal in the summer, Michael Carrick has played just 12 minutes of Premier League football this season.
Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, Manchester United have spent hundreds of millions of pounds on central midfielders, from Bastian Schweinsteiger to Paul Pogba, yet many people would argue that Carrick is still the club’s best option in that position.
At 35, he’s not going to be able to start three matches each and every week, but here are six reasons why the English veteran deserves to and should be playing more regularly for the Red Devils.
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Carrick possesses incredible vision and an exceptional range of passing, but most importantly, whether he’s playing it back to David de Gea or switching the play, he tends to move the ball quickly and with purpose.
In the 12 minutes of league action that he got in the 4-1 win over Leicester City, he astonishingly managed to make 28 passes with 100% accuracy.
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Carrick scored a beauty against Northampton Town in the EFL Cup, he starred in the 1-0 win over neighbours Manchester City and produced 70 passes with a 97% accuracy rate in the 4-1 demolition of Fenerbahce two weeks ago.
The former Tottenham star always knows what’s going on around him on the pitch, both in an attacking and defensive sense.
He reads the game as well as anyone, which means that he sees things so quickly (almost before they happen) and hence can help to snuff out opposition attacks.
Going forward, he almost always spots the runs of United’s forwards and he has the technical ability to find them, often with brilliantly executed first-time through balls.
Carrick is comfortable receiving the ball under pressure in the middle of the park, and when he does so, his first thought is always to see if he can pass it forwards – not sideways or backwards.
He has the ability to singlehandedly control the pace and tempo of a game, slowing it down or speeding things up when he needs to. His elegance, calmness and composure in possession are vital for a side as they look to begin attacks.
Man Utd need him!
Jose Mourinho’s men have endured a disappointing run of late, winning just two of their last seven matches across all competitions.
In contrast, they’ve won all three games this term when Carrick has been in the starting XI and he provides the team with much-needed balance.
The ex-England international is capable of sitting just in front of the back four and dictating play from a deep-lying role, and his presence allows others to venture forward.
He is the closest thing Man United currently have to Italian World Cup winner Andrea Pirlo, who gave Paul Pogba the freedom to express himself at Juventus, as well as club legend Paul Scholes.
The 35-year-old may not be as strong or as physically dominant as players like Pogba and Marouane Fellaini, and he certainly isn’t as quick or as energetic as the in-form Ander Herrera.
However, with his intelligence, he rarely gets caught out of position and he unquestionably understands the responsibilities of the holding midfield position more than anyone else in the United team.
Carrick has played a remarkable 426 games for United, he fully grasps the stature of the club and he knows what it’s like to win titles and other important honours.
During his ten-year spell at Old Trafford, he’s won five Premier League trophies, one Champions League, two League Cups and the FA Cup back in May.
In addition to his footballing qualities, the playmaker provides a wealth of experience and can help to lead a squad which contains some extremely talented youngsters like Eric Bailly, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford.
There’s no doubt that Carrick is the type of player where you only truly realise his importance to the team when he’s not in it – and Mourinho is starting to find that out.
Do YOU agree? Does Carrick deserve more regular playing time? What is Man United's best midfield? Have YOUR say in the comments box below!