16. MICHAEL CARRICK
|Birthdate:||28 Jul 1981|
|Birthplace:||Wallsend, North Shields|
|Joined United:||31 Aug 2006|
|United Debut:||23 Aug 2006 v Charlton (A)|
Michael Carrick has established himself as one of the most effective midfielders in the Barclays Premier League since his arrival at Old Trafford from Tottenham Hotspur in 2006. Understated, and often under-rated, Carrick has become a lynchpin of the United engine room, enjoying arguably his best season to date in 2011/12.
In his debut campaign of 2006/07, he carved out a formidable partnership with Paul Scholes and began to mature into one of English football’s most sophisticated and classy passing midfielders. Thereafter, he confounded those who had said he would slip down the pecking order following Owen Hargreaves’ arrival in 2007.
The first of Carrick’s title triumphs with United was also the maiden honour of his professional career, although he did win the FA Youth Cup with West Ham in 1999, scoring twice in the 9-0 two-legged final demolition of Coventry City.
West Ham loaned him out to Swindon the following season, and then Birmingham in 2000/01, as he earned a nomination for the PFA Young Player of the Year, eventually won by Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard.
Carrick spent much of the 2002/03 season sidelined with injury and subsequently decided to stay with the club the following season – despite relegation out of the top flight. However, after losing the 2004 play-off final to Crystal Palace, Carrick decided he couldn’t wait another year for a return to the Premier League and moved across London to join Tottenham in a transfer worth £2.75m.
He blossomed into an accomplished midfielder in two seasons at White Hart Lane but the lure of United was impossible to resist as he was encouraged to head north by Sir Alex Ferguson’s determination to bring him to Old Trafford.
A calming influence and the master of the interception, he weighs in with the occasional goal – his first was a well-taken half-volley against Aston Villa in early 2007 before a strike against Reading in the FA Cup was shortlisted for the club’s Goal of the Season award. A rare brace was secured in the memorable 7-1 rout of Roma in the Champions League.
Carrick may have only scored three goals in 2007/08 but his all-round contribution to the cause could not be questioned as the Reds were crowned champions of England and Europe. Little wonder then, that club and player agreed a new four-year deal in May 2008, to extend his stay in M16.
After missing nine games early in the 2008/09 season with an ankle injury, the Geordie returned to establish himself as the focal point of United’s midfield, finishing with 43 appearances in all competitions and scoring a crucial May winner at Wigan during the title run-in.
His fourth campaign with United proved more difficult, not least when an injury crisis at the club forced him to take up an emergency role in the back four. However, he responded in style, first at West Ham where the Reds won 4-0 and then away to Wolfsburg where he proved his versatility.
The midfielder agreed to extend his stay at Old Trafford again at the beginning of March 2011, when he signed a new three-year deal to keep him at the club until the end of the 2013/14 campaign.
Though he failed to score in 2010/11, the first barren season of his United career, he was particularly effective after Christmas in a more defensive midfield role, as he helped the Reds reclaim the title. This form improved in 2011/12 as Carrick once again asserted his authority in the centre of the park. Making 40 appearances, the English playmaker enjoyed probably his finest personal campaign at the club – even if it ended in title heartbreak.
His assured calmness under pressure and pin-point passing ability was, at times, faultless. Despite a clamour to add some quality to England’s midfield at Euro 2012, he had expressed a desire to retire from international football during Fabio Capello’s reign – after earning 22 caps – he was able to recharge his batteries in the summer before heading off on the DHL tour in July.
It is a remarkable fact that, since joining the United in 2006, he has only lost out in a league title race by one point (to Chelsea in 2009/2010) and goal difference (to Manchester City in 2011/2012).