For a player of such rich résumé, Michael Carrick is remarkably underrated.
The player himself has been a vital, yet an often overlooked part of the much-maligned Manchester United midfield for years now.
During his long stay at Old Trafford, the England international has filled his trophy cabinet with numerous medals: Not only has he won the English Premier League four times, but he's also played a part in three Champions League finals (one of which he won). Add a FIFA Club World Cup title and League Cup trophy into the list, and it becomes obvious Carrick is not just another English footballer.
However, questions concerning his ability have been posed more times than you can imagine, and the conclusion is almost always the same—Carrick is unworthy of a place in the team, and does not deserve to wear the famous United shirt.
His passing is far from supreme, his dribbling skills are in no way majestic or marvellous, he rarely ventures forward and he really doesn't do much in defense either. That's the general belief, at least.
Nevertheless, the criticism is not only unproven, but is outdated as well.
Carrick has risen his game to the highest level and mastered his role in the team perfectly. The United No. 16 is now an outstanding holding midfielder. One of the very best in the league actually.
His passing has improved, although sincerely it was never poor, to such extent that he is now perhaps the best passer in Manchester.
A defensive midfielder by definition, Carrick was never meant to develop his dribbling ability, and consequently he has a rather poor successful dribbles count. But, truth be told, neither Gerrard, Lampard nor Milner, who all play in a more offensive position, are great dribblers and that does not make any of them poor players.
Carrick's reluctance to venture forward is only natural—a deep-lying midfielder is not supposed to rush forward and help out the attack every time an opportunity arises. It's up to central and attacking midfielders to do that.
Furthermore, to say he does little in defense is pure madness. Carrick averages 2.5 tackles, 2.1 interceptions and 3.3 clearances per match. For those wondering, that's more than any other midfielder in Manchester, including Manchester City players.
Carrick might be underrated, but he is a fantastic midfielder.
After all, the statistics speak for themselves: Since the start of the season, Carrick has completed 91 percent of his passes, averaging a decent one key pass per match, as well as providing the all-important assist four times and scoring once in the process.
What is more, there is perhaps no better sign of Carrick's quality than Sir Alex Ferguson's determination to stick with the England international for so long—the most successful manager in the Premier League history clearly thinks Carrick is good enough to feature in one of the best teams in world football.
It's high time for us to give Carrick the recognition and the praise he deserves.
All statistical data courtesy of WhoScored.com