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Michael Carrick made a welcome return from injury to face his former club on Wednedsay. ManUtd.com tracks his route from lanky lad to Reds lynchpin…

The archetypal ‘Boy Wonder' tale runs: toddler kicks ball in nappies, hurtles through age groups, bursts to prominence while barely above legal driving age. But that's not Michael Carrick's style. Although playing five-a-side at precisely that age suggests a prodigious genius, the Wallsend-born youngster's evolution into world-class midfielder has been a slow-burning affair.

True, he represented the fabled Wallsend Boys Club, and spent every spare moment practising with younger brother Graeme, but Carrick was a devoted student, always focused on his schoolwork. His football talent was apparent, without being glaring. Although a star performer for Wallsend – a club known for unearthing rough diamonds – scouts were impressed, but not blown away. Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Sunderland ran the rule over this leggy prospect, but all shied away from commitment. Sunderland didn't even offer him a trial.

“It was a hell of a loss for Newcastle not to have got Michael to the club as a 12-year-old,†admits former Magpies manager Glenn Roeder, who worked with Carrick at West Ham. “He's probably the best player to come out of Newcastle for a generation. You can't put in what God left out: Michael was born to be a footballer. I think they saw a tall lad who was skilful, but didn't appear to have pace. He only played either side of the halfway line. But West Ham had a scout up here that took a fancy to him.â€

Harry Redknapp was at the Upton Park helm when Carrick was snared, part of a golden Hammers generation which spawned Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand. Whereas the others were obvious thoroughbreds from day one, it took Carrick time to settle. The personality and football intellect were ticked boxes, but the midfielder needed to catch up with himself physically.

“Michael came down at an early age, skinny as a rake,†Redknapp recalls. “He had a terrific football brain even then, but absolutely no strength whatsoever. He always knew what he was doing, but couldn't get around the pitch because he was so thin. Then he shot up a foot in a matter of months. He grew beyond his strength from 5'6†to 6'1â€. He was like a beanpole; no strength, growing pains and problems with his knees. It was a case of waiting for him to develop and fill out.â€

Harry was happy to wait, signing Carrick professionally in 1997. Two years later, months after scoring twice in the Hammers' FA Youth Cup final 9-0 two-legged triumph against Coventry, 18-year-old Michael made his senior debut in a 3-0 victory at Bradford. Loan deals at Swindon Town and Birmingham City beckoned, and his displays caused such a stir that even Arsène Wenger – when asked which English player he'd love to sign – said: “I'd take Carrick tomorrow.â€

Expectations snowballed, and Carrick's increasingly eye-catching form for West Ham led to a nomination for the 2000/01 PFA Young Player of the Year award, eventually won by Steven Gerrard. Just when all seemed to be building to a crescendo, so came the bum note that was West Ham's 2002/03 campaign. Carrick missed much of the season through injury, his form suffered and his popularity dipped among vexed Hammers fans. As relegation was duly confirmed, Fredi Kanouté, Joe Cole, Trevor Sinclair, Glen Johnson and Jermain Defoe all upped sticks. Carrick, however, ignored the stampede. “My thoughts are with West Ham,†he said. “I have a debt of loyalty to the club. We got us sent down, so we have to get us back up.â€

That stance won over the Hammers faithful, as did a season of superb performances in the second tier, which secured a place in the PFA First Division Team of the Year. West Ham's defeat to Crystal Palace in the play-off final left the midfielder at a crossroads; run, or run the risk of stagnating. With only a year remaining on his contract, West Ham were happy to listen to offers.

Harry Redknapp, by then at Portsmouth, seemed certain to be reunited with his protégé after agreeing a knockdown £2.75million fee, only for late interest from Arsenal and Tottenham to scupper it. Eager for regular football, Carrick opted for White Hart Lane, but hit an immediate obstacle – manager Jacques Santini signed him, yet seemed loath to select him. When the Frenchman was replaced by Martin Jol three months later, however, the Dutchman made him a midfield mainstay.

“The first time I saw him on the training pitch I thought: ‘he'll be an England international',†says Jol. “Everyone could see it. He's one of the biggest talents in England. He's a complete midfielder.†Carrick flourished at White Hart Lane and was named in England's 2006 World Cup squad. At this point rumours abounded of United's interest, but Carrick wasn't a new item in the shop window; he'd been on our hit-list for years.

“Michael was identified before he was at West Ham,†Reds assistant manager Mike Phelan revealed. “But West Ham got in there quick. We saw him young and always admired his talent - the timing never fell right. Around the time we signed him, we wondered whether to go for a defensive midfielder or one who could set the play rolling, and Michael fell into that category. We targeted him as a player who fitted into our grand scheme.â€



With the timing finally right for player and club, Tottenham were persuaded to part with one of their prized assets for £14million, with the potential for further payment depending on United's success. While some eyebrows were raised at the Reds' outlay, Sir Alex Ferguson had no qualms. “It was maybe two pence more than I would have paid, but no more,†he said at Carrick's media unveiling.


It was also revealed that the new boy would inherit the no.16 shirt vacated by Roy Keane. Some would have sought to distance themselves from the task of replacing a living legend, but Carrick relished the challenge. “I nearly snapped the gaffer's hand off when he offered it.†Self-assured off the pitch, his on-field approach remained composed during his bedding-in period, and a string of fine displays silenced any doubters. Two years and three major trophies later, Carrick has made himself almost indispensable.

“He gives a feeling of well-being within the team,†says Phelan. "Where other players might want to rush, he takes his time. He can take the sting out of the game, and also keep the pace of it up. It's his control, attitude and way of thinking. He's learned a lot through playing with good players, and being at a club that is constantly striving for more. He's a winner, and he wants to be the best midfielder in the country.â€

At West Ham, Carrick's was the neglected talent, often mentioned as an afterthought. At Tottenham, Carrick was the hub of flirtation with Champions League rather than the Championship. Even at United, amid the praise heaped upon the Reds' glittering stars, praise for his role in the recent silver-laden seasons has been slow in coming. But those in the know have been assured this was a talent which, like a fine wine, would mature with time.
Typically, his impact this term, rendered stop-start by injuries, has been slow to materialise. But now he's ready to bring his own carefully considered threat to our quest for silverware.
 

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I read this in the match programme last night. It was an interesting read for me because I'm a big fan of Carrick and think he is underrated by a lot of football fans. He is a fantastic passer of the football and retention of the ball is so important. My only criticism of him is that he should score more goals.
 

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no question hes a great player. very underrated.
i dont understand why he doesnt feature
regularly for england.

great asset for united.
 

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jerrakos said:
i dont understand why he doesnt feature regularly for england.
Yeah, he can't even get in the squad. I think Barry probably has his place at the moment - a holding midfielder who is a good passer of the football. Barry can also play on the left of midfield and defence too so his veratility makes him a valuable asset. However, if players like Jenas can get in the squad, who many Spurs fans don't even rate (although that was before he scored last night :D ), you'd have thought Carrick would be given a chance.
 

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^ I wanted to continue with another post. Should have put in a placeholder post ;)

I'm a big Carrick fan too, but I would have two more criticisms other than scoring more, but thank you for your post, because it helped me condense my thoughts on Carrick.

I love most things about Michael Carrick and man have I missed him. His cameo last night was a breath of fresh air and his passing is really second to none.

Things that I think Michael Carrick should work on and then he would almost be the perfect midfielder:

  1. Learn to play his way out when he's being closed down.
  2. Keep the passes simple, when he's having a bad day
  3. Score more
Let me elucidate:

In 2006/07 a lot of goals started with a Carrick pass - even if he did not necessarily get the final pass/assist, it was his distribution that led to a lot of goals.

However, I noticed that he would pass the ball back as soon as he was closed down. Compare this to his midfield partner, Paul Scholes would keep the ball, shield in from the opponent and look first to run with it and then to pass it.

To me this shows the opponent that he's not easily hassled and if you get away from the opponent, you already have one opponent out of position.

I've seen glimpses of Carrick starting to do this, but I think he'll be a more respected and commanding midfielder when he learns his. It will help him to stamp his authority in midfield.


Next up, and this is probably more important, whenever Michael has an off-day and has trouble finding his range, I notice that he insists on attempting those long passes.

Now, I understand that he needs to find his range, but I feel he should mix it up with short passes to keep fluidity and build up confidence.

And lastly, he needs to score more. He netted a few in his first season as a Red Devil, but neglected this last season.

I think a reason why he's not mentioned by the majority of football fans in the same breath as Gerrard and Lamps is because of his paltry goal-scoring record.

Once in a while when the strikers found it hard-going Roy Keane would pop up with a goal and I would love for Carrick to be able to contribute like that too.
 

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Great passer. Great player, hope Fabio will appreciate his incredible skills and talent. Glad i can see more of him now he's fit to play
 

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manutd.com

Carrick's fitness mission

He was an integral part of last season's double-winning side, but the 2008/09 campaign has proved to be a frustrating follow-up for Michael Carrick.

After a solid pre-season, the 27-year-old midfielder hobbled out of United's opening day clash with Newcastle after injuring an ankle.

Almost a month later he returned to action in the 1-0 defeat at Anfield, but was again forced off early after breaking a bone in his foot.

Now, after a successful comeback as a substitute against West Ham last week, the England international is hoping for a prolonged run in the side.

"It's just a case of getting back into the swing of things really," he told ManUtd.com. "It's been a while since I played and a long time since I had a run of games - in three months I've had very little football.

"I've worked as hard as I possibly can in training to get fit, but there's nothing like playing games. So it was nice to get back to it against West Ham and it's now a case of progressing forward."

Carrick has enjoyed unbridled success since his multi-million pound move to Old Trafford from Spurs in the summer of 2006.

Two Premier League titles, a Champions League winner's medal and two Community Shield honours are now in his possession.

And, even though the Reds are somewhat adrift of league pacesetters Liverpool, Carrick fully expects United to be in contention for English football's top prize come May.

"No gap is a good gap when you're chasing, but it's a long season and we just need to keep our momentum and consistency going as we have done in recent weeks," he reasoned.

"As we say every year, as long as you're in contention at Christmas that's when it really starts to count and the league starts to shape up, so we'll see how things go in the next month or two.

"It's a bit premature to be talking about who's going to win the title, but that's what people do isn't it?! Liverpool haven't been in this position for a number of years and it's up to them to see how they adapt to it. But ourselves, Chelsea and Arsenal believe we can challenge them.

"From our point of view, it doesn't matter who it is at the top, you've just got to get on with it," he added. "We're not looking at other teams, we're concentrating on ourselves and how we're playing and the results we're getting. We believe we'll be there come the end of the season.

"But for that to happen we have to make sure we don't drop many points at this stage because we need to put pressure on the teams at the top."
 

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he really is underrated. it seems not so much at united, but i suppose match of the day rarely focus on the work in midfield and the 3rd last pass before the goal. that would be the reason why others don't hold him in the same high esteem as we do.

i agree, on a good day, his passing is second to nobody.
and i also agree that a few more goals would be a treat. I'm not exactly a tactical maastermind, so i might be wrong on this but i figure that he's usually the holding player in a midfielder. he usually sits back and picks balls from about the centre circle to anywhere. the more he plays in a midfield where he's given license to push forward, he will get more towards playing on the edge of the box. and once he's there, he's more than capable of netting a few from 18-20 yards. anyone remember thos two fantastic goals against roma. and of course he scored a good goal against city.
 

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It's half-time against Hull and carrick scored on his return. Very nice.

His passinghas been a mix of gorgeous and a few errand passes, but I'm sure glad for him to be back in the team.

Anderson also seems to be happier with Carrick back in the team and is getting forward more often.
 

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One of the most underrated players in the EPL.
I am so glad his back for us!
He brings us so much stability and it was only after he got subed off we lost to Poo this season...it was so great to see him score too! He should take more shots...just like he did in the 7-1 win vs Roma!
 

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further to my request that he get forward, a lovely goal today.
and he could have had another one. lovely chip over a defender and then tripped.
great return and hopefuly more of the same from big mike, starting next saturday at arsenal please!
 

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sparkic said:
One of the most underrated players in the EPL.
I am so glad his back for us!
He brings us so much stability and it was only after he got subed off we lost to Poo this season...it was so great to see him score too! He should take more shots...just like he did in the 7-1 win vs Roma!
I agree, he was the un-sung hero of our team for the past two seasons. He proved the doubters wrong, being a success. Is it a coincidence that we've won the league every time since he arrived? Either way, he's a composed player, keeps it simple, and works for the team really well.

Today I didn't think he was at his best, passing completion rate wasn't at its usual perfection, but he did well going forward and grabbed a goal. A real boost to have him back in the team.
 

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Because I'm DC said:
I agree, he was the un-sung hero of our team for the past two seasons. He proved the doubters wrong, being a success. Is it a coincidence that we've won the league every time since he arrived? Either way, he's a composed player, keeps it simple, and works for the team really well.

Today I didn't think he was at his best, passing completion rate wasn't at its usual perfection, but he did well going forward and grabbed a goal. A real boost to have him back in the team.
Spot on.

It's no coincidence that his addition to the team has coincided with two successful campaigns. He's not the only reason, but certainly an important reason.

as you said, he didn't complete as many passes today as usualy, but boy were some of them gorgeous. He's very assured too and gives the players around him confidence. Most noticeably Anderson who looked very lively today.

I'm really happy that he scored and I said in my post that it's one of the thing he should work on. Hopefully, he can make a habit out of it.
 

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Carrick confident he has improved

MICHAEL Carrick insists he is a better player than when he last won an England cap 15 months ago.

The Manchester United star earned the last of his 14 caps in a friendly with Germany at Wembley under Steve Mc- Claren.

A combination of ill-timed injuries and, in the eyes of Mc- Claren and his successor Fabio Capello, poor form have since kept the 27-year-old out of the international picture.

However, Carrick must have been doing something right as during that time he has gone on to win a second Premier League title at Manchester United and played a major part in the Red Devils' Champions League final win over Chelsea.

‘‘I certainly think I am a better player than when I last played for England,'' said Carrick.

‘‘I have improved a lot by being at Manchester United.

Winning things is great and the honours we have won recently have been fantastic.

‘‘But as an individual you just want to keep improving all the time. That is what I have been doing.â€

Carrick claimed he never stopped believing he would represent the Three Lions again. And his confident passing game has been missed, even if a midfield containing Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard was always going to present a major challenge to the former Tottenham midfielder.

‘‘I always believed in myself,â€

he said. “I knew if I was playing well enough I would get the opportunity.â€

The chances are Carrick will find himself involved against Germany tomorrow given the withdrawals of Gerrard and Lampard.

http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/sport/3856722.Carrick_confident_he_has_improved/



daily express

BERLIN MOMENT OF TRUTH FOR CARRICK

Michael Carrick dared to be different yesterday and not simply by being one of the few midfielders to declare himself fit and able for England duty.

The list of absentees for tomorrow's showdown with Germany may be growing ever longer and with it more reasons to dismiss the trip to Berlin as an irrelevance, yet the Manchester United playmaker was keen to buck the trend.

“It's not a meaningless friendly. It's a good opportunity. What a game – Germany versus England is a huge match at any level,†said Carrick.

“This is a good chance for me and now that I am here, I want to play and try to stay in there.â€

While Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard both rest up at home, there is rather more riding on Carrick's contribution in the Olympic Stadium than for the majority of his team-mates in Fabio Capello's much-changed squad.

A performance as refreshing as his thinking and Wallsend-born Carrick can breathe new life into his international prospects. Anything less and he is likely to make a quickfire return to the shadows.

It is more than 12 months since he won the last of his 14 caps, ironically against Germany in a 2-1 defeat at Wembley, and such is the depth to the country's midfield options that he has barely registered on Capello's radar until now.

Whether he likes it or not, the most important 90 minutes of his England career stretches out before him.

“I don't really look at it as that I've only got one chance,†said Carrick. “If you're thinking like that, it puts a lot of pressure on you. It's another game of football for me. To represent my country is massive enough for me. I'm going to try to do what I've been doing, what I know I'm good at.

“I'm not looking to the past too much. I look ahead and think about trying to be a better player. That's what I'm focusing on at the moment. I'd always hope I'd get back into the squad.

“Now I want to push for a starting place. We have got some terrific players, world-class players in midfield.

“So it is a real challenge, but a great challenge.

“I certainly think I'm a better player than I was the last time I played for England.â€

At times, watching the softly spoken, laid-back Carrick yesterday raised the question whether or not deep down he really wants the hassle of trying to force his way into England's midfield and whether playing for the biggest club side in the world, winning Premier League titles and Champions League gongs, does not already satisfy all of his professional cravings.

Inheriting Roy Keane's No16 shirt at Old Trafford following his £18million move from Tottenham in the summer of 2006 suggests he is not someone who shirks a challenge and it is all credit to him that, in time, he is proving it to be a smart fit.

Carrick now has the chance to emulate boyhood heroes Paul Gascoigne and Peter Beardsley. “It has never been a case of not being interested about being here. It means a lot,†he said.

“I'm desperate to be part of the England squad and desperate to play. As a kid, it's what you dream of. I always looked up to Paul Gascoigne and Peter Beardsley because I grew up in that area.

“One of my first big memories of football was Italia 90, watching that and dreaming that one day that could be me. That really sticks out in my mind. The dream was England and the World Cup. It has never been a case of take it or leave it with me.

“Playing in the last World Cup was a great experience, but it was only a little experience. It's something I want to build on. Hopefully the next World Cup will give me another opportunity to do so.

“You get the impression England can be on the verge of something. You're juged on results. The start we've had to the group has been brilliant and we go into every game hoping to win it.â€

Having been handed the chance to play his part in the success story so far, Carrick must now grasp it.
 

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All of a sudden he's scoring goals too! Just wish he would've got his against Stoke before Ronaldo, would have won 1200 Vcash. Thank God he's back. That's all I'll say.
 

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I'm a massive fan of Carrick, I think he's integral to our game in big matches. He isn't quite as free to do his own thing as he was at Spurs, but he's bagged two good goals on his bad foot already this season.

He keeps the game ticking over, looksfor a killer pass, retaining possession, excellent positional sense (doesn't tackle much but intercepts so many passes and blocks off runs a lot), calm under pressure. He isn't a spectacular player, which some people see as lack of skill, but we don't need that from him.
 

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Kellfire said:
I'm a massive fan of Carrick, I think he's integral to our game in big matches. He isn't quite as free to do his own thing as he was at Spurs, but he's bagged two good goals on his bad foot already this season.

He keeps the game ticking over, looksfor a killer pass, retaining possession, excellent positional sense (doesn't tackle much but intercepts so many passes and blocks off runs a lot), calm under pressure. He isn't a spectacular player, which some people see as lack of skill, but we don't need that from him.
Good assessment Kellfire and welcome to the forum.
Carrick remaining fit is a must if United want to win trophies this season, so lets hope he does.
 

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Kellfire said:
I'm a massive fan of Carrick, I think he's integral to our game in big matches. He isn't quite as free to do his own thing as he was at Spurs, but he's bagged two good goals on his bad foot already this season.

He keeps the game ticking over, looksfor a killer pass, retaining possession, excellent positional sense (doesn't tackle much but intercepts so many passes and blocks off runs a lot), calm under pressure. He isn't a spectacular player, which some people see as lack of skill, but we don't need that from him.
Welcome to the best United forum - not the biggest but certainly the best. :)

Me too am a big Carrick fan and your description of him is so familiar. :)

If there is anything negative at all that comes to mind, he is too classy for dirty works in the middle of the park which does not make him stand out like other more established or famed central midfielders who really get themselves stuck in hard in the midfield tussle. But his "excellent positional sense" (not all fans seem to realise that) makes up for it, enabling him to look pretty relaxed and poised, intercepting passes with minimum fuss and tackling with precision rather than agression. And together with his eye for "a killer pass" and his composure on the ball, he has probably become the most influential midfielder in our current team (the case for Scholes is now debatable in the twilight of his long illustrious career with us).

One thing we can benefit from him is when he starts to venture forward to score. That would really give us another precious option upfront. Someone like Hargreaves or Fletcher to drop back while he does his thing would be ideal. [Anderson too, for his wonderful attributes and incredible strength but alas Anderson does seem naturally more offensive-minded, resulting in Carrick often dropping back instead. I do, however, think that Anderson can do both but that is another topic for another day..]
 

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Hargreaves and Carrick are the natural combination in the middle when the whole team is fit, for me. Sadly Hargreaves received knees from Louis Saha for Christmas.
 
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