The odds that Michael Carrick would become a United superstar were always stacked against him, after the club was forced to pay out a massive £18.6 million for him. He was a good player and had shown himself as worthy of attention at Spurs, but was he worth £18.6 million? Never.
Regardless, with Keane gone, United needed to find someone to come in and play alongside Paul Scholes. Whilst the likes of Fletcher and O’Shea were decent enough as squad players, they were no Roy Keane, and if we were to show we were serious about winning the title, we needed to buy someone.
United fans’ ambition was naively high, thinking that we could land Gattuso or Hargreaves after our second place finish. We didn’t have the pulling power we used to have, so Carrick was as good as it would get for United. The press criticised the move, claiming what we already knew, that Carrick wasn’t worth the money we were paying, and questioned whether he was good enough for United.
As the season progressed, Carrick didn’t prove he was worth his price tag, which was inflated because of his nationality rather than anything to do with his ability, but he proved he was worthy of a place in our team. He was far better than anything else we had available to us, and although not setting the World alight, he did a job for us. He was consistently good, never peaking too high or playing too badly, and with him on hand, we won the title. Would we have won the title with Fletcher playing alongside Scholes? I wouldn’t bet on it.
At this point, let me make it clear then, that I am not one of these fans who has slagged Carrick off since his arrival. As long as we are able to acknowledge we had to pay more for him that he is worth, it is a lot easier to accept that he is a good enough player who has done a good enough job for us.
Now with Anderson and Hargreaves in the fold, Carrick has been relegated to the bench, when Anderson and Hargreaves are fit, and rightly so. His place on the bench isn’t really safe, considering when Scholes comes back, Sir Alex Ferguson is going to have some trouble picking our two central midfielders. I can only presume Anderson will be the one left on the bench then, with Carrick biding his time waiting for Scholes to retire, or for he himself to move on to another club.
For the time being, however, with no Scholes, and Hargreaves battling with injury/illness, Carrick has got his place in the midfield back. I was fairly critical of the decision to play Fletcher against West Ham, but now it appears as though he would have been a better option today, as Carrick was shockingly bad.
Everything Carrick could have got wrong, he did. He gave the ball away on practically every occasion he had it in his position. He let players run through him unchallenged, unable to show any kind of fight or determination to win the ball. He didn’t win a header all game, as time and again the keeper booted the ball in to his general direction, only for a Birmingham player to be first to it. I honestly don’t think he could have played worse today if he tried.
The worrying thing however was I can’t really fault Carrick’s commitment, he was trying, but he just couldn’t pull it off. He looked frustrated with himself every single time he gave the ball away, he looked frustrated every time the Birmingham players skipped past him in midfield, but there was nothing he could do about it. If I wasn’t feeling slightly wary of a Birmingham equaliser, I’d have felt sorry for the lad, but as it was, I could not contain my frustration. When the three substitutions were made and Carrick was still left on the field, I couldn’t believe it. Easily the worst performance we’ve seen from a United player this season and we had to endure it for ninety whole minutes!
Carrick looked as though he wanted the ground to swallow him up today, and for much of the game, I wished it would. Maybe he’s still feeling unwell, or maybe it was just a bad day at the office, but he’s going to have to pull his socks up if he wants to even get close to our bench!
Just how bad was Carrick today?