Jose Mourinho must find adequate Michael Carrick replacement at United
Last summer, Michael Carrick signed a one-year contract extension at Manchester United to keep him at the club until June 2017. With the January transfer window open and no new contract on the table, Carrick is now free to talk to other clubs about a move on a free transfer at the end of this season.
Ahead of Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Middlesbrough on New Year’s Eve, club legend Gary Neville spoke to prematch diners at Hotel Football about a range of issues relating to the club and the topic of Carrick was brought up. Neville correctly predicted Carrick would be left out of the Boro game and saved for West Ham, as his age means he can’t be expected to play every few days. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is clearly superhuman because, also 35, he plays every minute, but that is not the norm.
Neville also revealed that two of his best mates, both season-ticket holders at Old Trafford, had spent years criticising Carrick. Neville would always defend the midfielder but they claimed that was only because he was a teammate, then a former teammate.
The attitude of Neville’s friends is reflective of many United fans. Taking Roy Keane’s No.16 shirt in 2006, Carrick started off on the back foot at United. He was never going to have the presence of the legendary captain. He grew in to his role at United, though, and while he will always have his detractors, he is largely a popular figure at United now.
The 2012-13 season was all about Robin van Persie, with the Dutch striker firing United to their 20th title, but Carrick played a hugely important role too. “Hard to believe it’s not Scholes, it’s Carrick, you know,” was the chant sung every week. Of course, it was generous to the midfielder, but it was indicative of how highly thought of he was by the fans.
However, after three average years under the management of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho seemingly deemed Carrick surplus to requirements at the beginning of this season.
While he wasn’t cut out of the team like Bastian Schweinsteiger, with Mourinho claiming Carrick’s experience was “invaluable” to him, he didn’t have any interest in using him in the Premier League to begin with.
Five league games had been played before Carrick got his first minutes in the competition, being brought on for the final 10 minutes of the 4-1 win over Leicester. United were 12 games in to the season before Carrick played again in the league, earning his first start in the first week of November, when United beat Swansea 3-1.
Since then, Carrick has started in seven of the nine games that have followed, with the manager carefully a using a player he now sees the value of.
In all competitions, Carrick has played in 15 games this season, with United winning 13 and drawing two. In the 15 games without him, United have lost five, drawn four and won six. It would be foolish to argue he is the only defining factor in the outcome of these games, but that doesn’t make the statistic worthless either.
Still, however regularly Carrick plays this season, he will be aware his position will be a priority for Mourinho to fill in the summer. After the huge sums spent in the last transfer window, it’s likely United will invest heavily again. If Carrick wants to play more regularly next season, he will have to look for a move elsewhere.
There are Premier League clubs who would be more than happy to include Carrick in their squad, knowing he still has much to offer, if used sensibly.
However, after over a decade at the club and approaching 36, his best option may be to stay at United. Mourinho hinted last year that Carrick would be offered a new contract, claiming the midfielder will “probably” be at the club next season. Carrick signed his last extension in June, the one before that in March, yet on both occasions he was a free agent in the summer. He’s been happy to bide his time in the past so there’s no reason why that won’t be the case again this year.
Next season, Carrick could prove to be a valuable voice in the dressing room. Wayne Rooney, still struggling for form and fitness, will almost certainly be on his way out, adding to the ever-dwindling number of remaining players who have won the title with United. Winning the league isn’t a realistic objective this season but it should be next term. Carrick’s presence may decline on the pitch but his experience could help the team off it.
Having shown patience at the start of the campaign when he was repeatedly left out of the team, he’s now familiar with what it feels like not to have a starting role. If that suited him, getting a run out in cup competitions and the odd league game, then he may well be prepared to stay at United, knowing he won’t have as much playing time.