At the end of his first press conference as Manchester United manager, Louis van Gaal expressed his bitter disappointment with the news that Michael Carrick will be sidelined for up to three months with an ankle injury. But it could prove to be a blessing in disguise for the club’s supporters.
This is because the central midfielder, who turns 33 later this month, should no longer be considered as a first-team regular at Old Trafford - and it may encourage Van Gaal to splash the cash on a younger, more effective, replacement.
Carrick: Poor last season
You can count the number of Manchester United players who enjoyed a good 2013/14 campaign on the fingers of one hand, but amongst the most disappointing performers was Carrick.
The club’s so-called best midfielder went missing when the team needed him most. According to statistics provided by WhoScored, he was United’s eighth-best performer over the course of the campaign - ignoring James Wilson and Anders Lindegaard, who both made one Premier League appearance each - which seems awfully generous.
The season beforehand he was named in the Premier League PFA Team of the Year - and deservedly so - but his performances tailed off massively last term.
Age catches up with Carrick
Is this a sign that age has caught up with the former England international? Or, like several other members of the Red Devils’ squad last season, could he simply not be bothered to perform for David Moyes?
Considering this is a model professional, it seems far-fetched to imagine his poor displays were due to a lack of desire to play for Moyes. However, this subsequently means Carrick has approached the stage in his career where Manchester United must consider selling him.
The former West Ham and Tottenham star’s contract expires next summer - and it’s hard to imagine United offering the ageing midfielder a one-year extension at the end of the 2014/15 campaign.
Watch: Highlights from Carrick's best season at Old Trafford
Vidal and others in line to replace Carrick
The most likely scenario - and the odds of this happening are increased by the news of Carrick’s injury - is that Van Gaal will bring in at least one top-level central midfielder to play alongside Ander Herrera.
Juventus star Arturo Vidal has been the name on every Manchester United supporters’ lips for some time now and it’s clear that Van Gaal would love to bring the all-action Chile international to Old Trafford.
A partnership comprised of Herrera and Vidal would give any other central midfield pairing in the Premier League a run for its money. On the other hand, a midfield pairing of Herrera and Carrick would pale in comparison to Fabregas-Matic, Toure-Fernandinho, Wilshere-Ramsey and others.
Central midfield is still the area Van Gaal must strengthen above all else. And the veteran Dutch coach can use Carrick’s injury as the perfect opportunity to sign a world-class replacement.
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