Michael Carrick Is Finally Getting the Credit He Deserves
As Leighton Baines and Michu, amongst others, have found out to their cost, the PFA Player of the Year shortlist is inherently flawed. Box-office names at the biggest clubs tend to receive the most attention, with less glamorous types overlooked along the way.
Yet of those who made the cut this time around, Michael Carrick was the significant exception. Often misunderstood, unfairly characterised as something of a lightweight lily-gilder, it seems the role of Manchester United's pass master supreme is belatedly being reassessed.
His virtues are less obvious than those of the archetypal, all-action midfielder. From Phil Jones to Jordan Henderson there are a lot of athletic, hard-running strongmen around, making their presence felt at both ends of the pitch. In contrast, Carrick favours patience and precision over physicality.
This has perhaps been to his detriment in a country where rough-and-tumble commonly prevails. There have been memorable words of praise from two Spanish technicians, Xabi Alonso and Xavi Hernandez, believing it to be the case.
Rather than becoming self-righteous about playing styles, as many Carrick advocates are wont to do, it's important to acknowledge where this popular mistrust stems from. Detractors have long felt that he is a little too languid, lacking the force of personality to truly impose himself on a game.
Although these fears are well-founded—he is most definitely not a Roy Keane or Bryan Robson-like enforcer—Carrick can still make his team tick. He prefers to exert a quiet authority over proceedings instead, bringing composure and an excellent range of passing to the base of United's midfield.
While the other nominees for PFA Player of the Year are showy forwards, with well-trumpeted goalscoring records, Carrick has very few hard facts in his favour. His inclusion is thus a triumph for the under-appreciated aspects of the game, for an influence more amorphous than such crude measures allow.
Suffice it to say the absences of Paul Scholes and Darren Fletcher haven't been felt due to Carrick's consistency. He's started all but two of the title-winner's league games, delivering a decisive blow to accusations of flakiness or fragility under pressure.
Fellow professionals have long admired Carrick's ability while the public at large have tended to treat him with suspicion. Whether such accolades will change that situation remains to be seen.
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