Michael Carrick. He is the Samwise Gamgee of Old Trafford. The man does so much of the work that leads to glory but curiously ends up with very little of the credit. I’ve just finished watching The Return of the King and it’s striking how often Sam is left to carry the burden of the Ring’s fate, with Frodo often delirious. Frodo stumbles from scene to scene while Sam stands there, stoic, humbly and bravely seeing off all-comers. Sam inches his way forward over ash and broken stone. He drags himself and his friend through the lair of the most feral of predators. And when all’s said and done it’s Frodo who gets to compose the trilogy. Sam just gets on with life.
Getting on with it…Michael Carrick’s a bit like that. He’s been like that since he arrived at Old Trafford in the summer of 2006, taking the shirt of arguably Manchester United’s greatest midfielder for a fee that many thought excessive. Four league titles and a UEFA Champions League later, he still has his doubters. Recently Opta tweeted that “Michael Carrick made 3226 passes in 2012, 577 more than any other player in the Premier League”. I saw Carrick mocked, as I have before, for only passing the ball sideways, a criticism as inaccurate as it is bizarre. There is often a perception of Carrick as a player who keeps the ball slowly sloshing about the midfield like stale bathwater, when in truth he gives it something crucial: rapid and efficient circulation. And in any event, it’s unclear why there is an obsession with relentlessly forward passing from midfield. After all, Xavi’s not fixated with it, and it’s worked out just fine for him.