Michael Carrick played his last game for Manchester United on Sunday and as a United fan, it was a very sad sight. Carrick was the last member of the United squad that was a part of the 2008 Champions League winning squad, a great achievement and one of my personal favourite football memories. Carrick’s departure now makes the Sir Alex Ferguson era seem so far away, there are players who remain from Sir Alex’s reign; Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and David De Gea to name a few, but whether it be a position change or a significant step up in ability, these players are all very different to when Sir Alex was in charge and that is why Carrick’s departure is so different.
The wave of kind words from the squad, the club, the fans and even some from the rest of the football world really showed just what an influence Carrick had on those around him. He had such a calming influence on and off the pitch and to see all the incredible posts from members of the squad was great, the amount of respect shown made me genuinely very proud. Carrick gave everything for Manchester United, whenever he was given the chance and I am so glad he got the send off he deserved.
So what was so special about Carrick?
Last year, Pep Guardiola said that Michael Carrick is “one of the best holding midfielders I’ve ever seen in my life by far. He’s the level of Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets.” Numerous players and managers have said some wonderful things about Carrick, but this one really stands out to me. Pep really know his stuff and he’s managed an incredible amount of equally incredible players, but most of all, he was already manager of Manchester City when he said this. Such high praise from a rival manager shows just how respected Carrick was as a player and an overall professional.
It was how he carried himself in games that I believe impressed the most, every time you looked at him, he was the calmest man on the pitch. He didn’t panic, he’d collect the ball and take his time, the ball was played when he was happy with it, he could dictate the pace of the game this way. The other side of his game would see him provide defensive cover for his centre-backs and as was his way, he would do that in such a measured fashion, he didn’t over-extend himself, he knew his limits, so if he did something, he made sure he got it right.
Carrick has been a part of a number of incredible squads, winning everything he can do at club-level. League titles, domestic cups and, of course, the Champions League, he boasts honours that most can only dream of and now he is set to go on and help Manchester United achieve more in the future, taking a role in the coaching set-up from next season. “A big player is leaving, but a big man is staying,” the words of José Mourinho that really summed up Carrick’s transition from player to coach perfectly, he will exist in a different capacity, but he will remain the same esteemed individual in that dressing room.
There have been a number of times where I’ve really been taken aback by Michael Carrick and its not because he’s the fanciest player on the pitch but just in his general demeanour. His character really shone through last season when I was lucky enough to attend his testimonial match, hearing him talk about the game and the cause he had chosen to donate the proceeds of the match to really made me realise why the players all look up to him and why the staff all respect him, he really is just class.
The Next Steps
His final match on Sunday was not a thriller, but the wonderful ball to Juan Mata that set up Marcus Rashford’s goal was the most fitting send off I could have imagined, a key pass that lead to a vital goal before receiving a standing ovation from the Old Trafford faithful in return for the years of dependable service he has given to the club. One last game in front of the home crowd was a touching moment and one that I’m sure will make a great memory for many Manchester United fans.
Seeing Carrick sat on the bench against Swansea, not as a substitute was quite odd, but only because he looked so at home their, I am certain that Carrick will fit in rather seamlessly amongst the coaching staff, I couldn’t have picked a better role for him. His presence will be good for the younger members of the squad, because he’s been there, whatever they may face, he’s done it and he’s won it all, that is invaluable to the squad and I can’t wait for him to start.
Just days away from the FA Cup final, where Manchester United play Chelsea, it will be a big day for both the club and Carrick, preparations will be slightly different for this weekend and I’m excited to see what’s next for Carrick, its some career he’s had and now that he’s decided to hang up his boots, I can confidently say he deserves this new opportunity.
So thank you Michael and good luck!