Michael Carrick's Importance to Man United Will Be Highlighted by His Absence

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Michael Carrick's Importance to Man United Will Be Highlighted by His Absence
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Non-believers are about to find out what all the fuss is about.

Few players split opinion like Michael Carrick. Most Manchester United fans who go to Old Trafford regularly have come to realise the importance of his role in five title triumphs in the last seven years.

The news that he has been ruled out until December with an Achilles injury will have hit them hard.

But there are some—mostly those who don't watch him every week—who still question what it is he does. They tend to be the ones who like their central midfielders with a little blood and thunder, the ones who urge players on with a shout of "get into him."

Some English football fans still like their midfielders neatly boxed-off into three categories: goalscoring, box-to-box and ball-winning.

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Carrick's gliding intelligence is difficult to quantify with statistics and, therefore, in the minds of some, inadmissible.

Carrick has never "got into" anyone. Nor can he boast the goal tallies of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard or Paul Scholes.

His effectiveness is based on reading the game, on breaking up play with his mind rather than brute force—the Uri Geller of the Premier League, if you like.

His passing is so good that Arsene Wenger once said he is worthy of a place in Barcelona's midfield. That's quite a compliment from a man who prides himself on playing attractive, flowing football.

United fans pay their own tribute to the 32-year-old, singing that it's hard to believe he's not Scholes.

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United aren't used to coping without Carrick.

Since arriving from Tottenham for £18 million in 2006, his longest spell out of the team is the 10 games he missed in September and October 2008 after breaking his foot.

His poorest run of form at Old Trafford was in 2009-2010. 

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It meant his longest run of games that season was six and he only started more than two consecutive games three times. United ended the season behind Chelsea in second place in the Premier League after three successes in the three years following Carrick's arrival. 

But statistics only reveal so much and that United have continued to be successful with little investment in midfield is more telling.

Robin van Persie is credited with making the difference in the title race last year, but Carrick—who never missed two consecutive games—played just as big a part. In the summer, his team-mates voted him Player of the Year ahead of Van Persie and the PFA included him in their team of the year.

If Carrick is sidelined until the New Year, he'll miss 11 games before Tottenham travel to Old Trafford on January 1. It would represent his longest spell out in seven years at United.

As soon as he's gone, the doubters are likely to find out exactly what it is he does.

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