Manchester United defeated West Ham on Wednesday 2-1 with a late-game winner courtesy of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has scored for the club in five straight games in his last five matches bringing his tally to 14 scores in 24 total appearances. Paul Pogba also added his fourth of the season and received another Man of the Match performance.
The headlines will surely praise the 35-year-old towering Swede and the high-priced Frenchman, and rightfully so, but there is a player on the roster that has been consistent and integral to the form of Manchester United. Michael Carrick is a player that has been doing the dirty work in the trenches for the Red Devils so the star signings can shine.
Man Utd’s form when Michael Carrick has played this season:
When he plays, everyone else plays better. pic.twitter.com/DeIGKfh2SI
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 14, 2016
He’s not the prototypical stat stuffer that is rewarded with big-money endorsements and commercials but rather the savvy veteran that often goes upraised for his performances on the pitch. At 35 years of age, the England international is providing the leadership and stability the club needs to succeed.
His play has never been flamboyant or exciting but his presence on the field influences the rest of the squad around him. Barcelona‘s Sergio Busquets is consistently heralded as one of the best holding midfielders in the world but he doesn’t play defense as a center-back like Man U’s No. 16. Carrick, despite his age, is versatile enough to play in the backline formidably.
Whether as a half-back or defender, his calming demeanor on the pitch is proving a positive for one of Manchester United’s most successful midfielders. He never plays beyond his limits always providing safe and crisp passes, strong firm tackles and provides a positive presence in the locker room as the vice captain for one of the most glorified clubs in the world.
Manchester United is currently riding its best form this season with nine straight unbeaten games in all competitions and Carrick has played in eight of the nine including wins over Arsenal and Tottenham. Perhaps Carrick should be included in the starting eleven more often because his value in the first team is proving fruitful.
Another win with @carras16 in the starting line up…!!! Massive 3 points with the teams above winning.. keep momentum!
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) December 14, 2016
Of course at his age, he can’t possibly hold up in all the games but if he’s healthy enough Jose Mourinho would be foolish not to have him at least on the bench as an option. Tactically Carrick on the pitch stabilizes the midfield freeing up the attackers. Pundit Danny Higginbotham agrees.
“When he plays, the team creates a lot more chances. Because Carrick is protecting the back four, the midfield four are able to push forward and are often in advance of Ibrahimovic.”
Manchester United are still battling for a top-four spot in the Premier League as they sit in sixth place in the table and have four winnable games against West Brom, Sunderland, Southampton and West Ham coming up in the Premiership.