Sport

Debate: Midfield mastermind Michael Carrick holds key to success for Manchester United and England

Comment by Alex Bysouth

England manager Roy Hodgson should take a leaf out of Sir Alex Ferguson’s book and build his Three Lions team around Manchester United playmaker Michael Carrick.

Carrick has churned out some superb displays for the Old Trafford side, but his sluggish international career has never fully taken off having won only 26 caps since his debut in 2001.

A media circus surrounded Hodgson when the national team boss left the midfielder out of his Euro 2012 squad after it was claimed the in-form 31-year-old did not wish to be a bit-part player.

But Carrick has been a key factor in firing United back to the top of the Premier League this season, controlling the midfield with his composed passing.

In fact, with the opening of St. George’s Park, a hub for the development of the most talented English players, and an ever increasing call for technical footballers with an emphasis on keeping possession, it seems one of the country’s finest passers has been largely overlooked for the last decade.

England have seen their midfield built around Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, and recently even Gareth Barry, so it is no wonder Carrick is miffed to be considered a bit-part player.

This is a player who has won more Premier League medals than Gerrard and Lampard put together, not to mention a Champions League and numerous domestic cups.

Likened to Glenn Hoddle during his time at Tottenham Hotspur, Carrick – like Hoddle – has found caps hard to come by, despite consistently proving himself as one of England’s most efficient ball players.

Carrick has demonstrated his creativity recently with his inventive distribution, such as the wonderful ball to set up Javier Hernandez’s winner against Newcastle United, and his link up with fellow countryman Tom Cleverley helped inspire United to a 4-0 demolition over Wigan yesterday.

But now England and Hodgson need to recognise the importance of the influential Carrick – who made 500 more passes than any other player in the league throughout 2012 – a man Sir Alex has trusted at the heart of his United midfield for more than six years.

As it is not just Carrick’s passing that has made him one of the Premier League’s most consistent midfielders, considered somewhat of a deep-lying playmaker, he is also aware of his defensive duties.

Carrick has been deployed as a central defender on various occasions during his career at the Theatre of Dreams, being forced to show his competent marking and positional ability, as well as an eye for a well-timed tackle and instinctive block.

The one criticism of the former West Ham United player may be his lack of goals, but Carrick combines an arsenal of passing to rival Gerrard with an underrated work rate and doggedness to match Barry and Scott Parker.

And with pass completion stats to rival Europe’s best, Carrick should be considered in the same breath as Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Andrea Pirlo.

If Manchester United are to snatch the title back from rivals City, Carrick will be vital, and if England are to kick on and qualify for World Cup 2014 in Rio, Hodgson needs to make the experienced baller the lynch pin of his Three Lions midfield.

Picture courtesy of Saadick Dhansay, with thanks

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