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Posts Tagged ‘Carrick’

Life Without Wesley: How Will Our Midfield Work?

As the days go by, it looks more and more likely that we’ll be kicking off against Manchester City in 12 days time without Wesley Sneijder, Samir Nasri, Luka Modric or any other new midfielders  in the squad. Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that there were targets, but that the targets are not available to us, which would seem to rule out the likelihood of our signing anyone at all. At the very least, there won’t be any more midfielders unless some unbelievable value becomes available.

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The Thursday After Manchester United vs Chelsea

It’s 24 hours since the final whistle blew at Stamford Bridge, and I am still absolutely buzzing about the result. Winning 1-0 there was absolutely beyond even my wildest dreams. I don’t think I found a single United blogger predicting that we would win. Most of us seemed to go for 1-1, and the rest seemed to settle for a good 2-1 defeat with an away goal.

That we did it AND got to enjoy the Chelsea fans being totally shafted by the referee in the last minute makes it all the sweeter. How does it feel boys, how the fuck does it feel?

Of course, it would be folly to get carried away with things. I can’t see Chelsea going the whole tie without scoring, which means that we’ll have to get another at Old Trafford. I had visions of Nani clipping that 1 on 1 over Cech as he raced through, and at 2-0 it would have been a completely different proposition, but Chelsea still need to score twice to win. They’re not going to want penalties. They’re still shit scared of them.

Still, when we look back on this performance we will remember it for one thing above all else – Michael Carrick’s emergence from the shadow cast by the boo-boys. Absolutely immense defensively, expansive, probing, and an absolutely perfect pass to Giggs in the build up to Rooney’s goal. If Michael Carrick isn’t the first name on the team-sheet in the run-in, then it better best be Nemanja Vidic.

I hope the irony of blaming the referee for the result is not lost on the Chelsea fans. They get the rub of the green match after match, year after year, and when they finally get one decision go against them, they all start bitching and moaning about how much of a disgrace it is. Well, sorry guys, welcome to our world. Besides, the foul was outside the box, even if no referee in the world is ever going to give a free kick in that situation. Penalties every time, as we saw against West Ham at the weekend.

Even without that, Chelsea didn’t really threaten beyond periods of extended pressure. their one flurry of post and two goal-line blocks just before half time, and the wonder save Edwin made from Fernando Torres.

Fernando Torres. The boy looks completely, utterly destroyed by the way his Chelsea career has started. Absolutely lost. The fans are on his back, he’s not sure that he has the support of his players or his manager, and he can’t even begin to see where his next goal is coming from. Since he last scored he’s hit the post, had goals disallowed, had shots cleared off the line, and seen Edwin claw out a header which, to be fair, was basically perfect. He must feel like going home every night, curling up into a little ball and dying.

His tepid performance made the decision to remove Drogba all the more puzzling. He was causing us all sorts of problems, and I was delighted to see the back of him.

Anyway, so what, he’s not our problem. Up front, we don’t have a problem. Wayne Rooney is once again firing on all cylinders, and looks almost back to his devastating best from last season. Dimitar Berbatov oozes class every time he comes on to the field and Javier Hernandez, even if he does struggle to make an impact in the more physical games, could score a goal at absolutely any moment.

Antonio Valencia doesn’t look like he’s been away. Likewise Park and, with Anderson scoring twice for the reserves this weekend, we have pretty much our full compliment of midfielders available. Just Fletcher out with his mystery virus.

This all bodes so, so well for the end of the season. Still, if we’re even going to start breating the t-word, we have to follow this up with a win at the weekend. However ecstatic I am with this result, I will be more pissed off than that if we drop points. With our fixtures, we simply cannot.

Our form is fantastic, though. I’m sure we won’t. Fingers crossed.

The Monday After Manchester United vs Bolton

The last thing I wanted to be discussing this morning was the loss of yet another defender but, no sooner does Jonny Evans get himself fit and back into the team than he picks up a likely three-match ban for a red card.

Evans had, up until his dismissal, looked far more solid than he has otherwise this season, but now we are sweating on the return to fitness of Ferdinand, Vidic and friends after the international break. The worst case scenario seems to be that Wes Brown will be partnering the omnipresent Chris Smalling at the back, with Patrice Evra at left-back and Fabio or, perish the thought, Hargreaves at right-back.

The tackle itself has been done to death over the weekend, with all of the ABU’s lambasting “filthy” Evans, but anyone with two rational brain cells to rub together seeing the tackle for what it was; two comitted players going for the same ball. Neither challenge was exactly textbook, but Evans got plenty of ball before getting Holden’s knee.

Holden’s challenge was very similar to Evans’, and the injury could easily have been the other way around. It’s a red card because Evans got the tackle wrong, but there was no malice. The fact that televisions biggest ABU Alan Hansen agrees with me should speak volumes. Jamie Carragher take note.

More than ever, I would like to ask what the fuck people’s beef with Michael Carrick is? Carrick works hard, makes countless interceptions, keeps the play simple and keeps posession. He ticks our midfield over like nobody’s business. Against Marseille in midweek, Carrick completed 54 of 58 passes. That’s 93.1% of his passes. Only Scholes completed more passes, but at a completion rate of just 84.8%.

Twitter was full of idiots after the game slating Carrick and demanding to know when we were going to sign [insert world class defensive midfielder / Football Manager starlet here]. These idiots cannot have watched the game or, if they did, did so with the sole intention of slating Michael Carrick for failing to unlock the Bolton defense.

I hate to disappoint you clowns, but that’s not Carrick’s job. Carrick is there to break up play, pass the ball to the better players (Rooney and Nani) and hold his position and his discipline. If you want to turn around and blame someone for not unlocking the defense, then Rooney and Nani should be your scapegoats because that’s their job.

Of course, Nani came good in the end, his shot being spilled for Berba to snatch the points, but Rooney swanned about all game looking vaguely threatening in a non-threatening way. Giggs, unfortunately, looks like he’s slipping slowly but surely toward the knackers yard, and Valencia was quiet.

All these players are, for one reason or another, beyond reproach. Giggs has given us years of service and is one of our greatest ever players so, of course, we can’t blame him. Rooney is the children’s hero, and so will always be cheered regardless of any off-the-pitch antics which the kids probably don’t even understand. Valencia is just back from a horrific injury so patchy performances are to be expected. Berba gets loads of shit too, despite being the league’s top scorer.

So, given the above, why should it fall to Michael Carrick to win the game single-handedly for us? It’s not Carrick who went to the manager crying about ambition and demanding a vast pay rise to match the wage offered to him by City. It’s not Michael Carrick who is picked to torment wingers with pace and ability before providing a killer ball.

United kept Bolton at bay, rarely looking much like losing their clean sheet. THIS IS CARRICK’S JOB. If Manchester United do not conceed a goal, then Carrick has done what he is paid to do and is selected for. If Manchester United do not score a goal and you’re into your scapegoating, then you have to turn to look at Nani and Rooney and Valencia and Hernandez and Berbatov and find your scapegoat there. Don’t come to the defensive midfield looking for one, because you will leave either disappointed or looking very stupid when you open your mouth.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to deflect blame away from anybody towards anybody else. We played badly against Bolton but came away with a win. We should be happy with this, and praising our players for their determination and never-say-die attitude. Instead we’re slating our own players which is so fucking small time as to be almost untrue.

Teams do occasionally struggle. Hell, even Barcelona sometimes lose, but I’ll bet you one thing. I bet none of their fans go slating Lionel Messi on twitter or calling for Sergio Busquets to be replaced as soon as the game ends.

Why Michael Carrick is Playing Badly

A lot of Manchester United fans have been bashing Michael Carrick, demanding he dropped, sold or hung, drawn and quartered. When he signed a new three year contract last week you’d imagine countless United fans were throwing themselves off the Arndale Center in disgust given the chat that’s been going around.

All this because Carrick hasn’t been better than a cross between Lionel Messi and Jesus and won us the league single handedly already.

When we signed Owen Hargreaves the summer after we signed Carrick, the medium term plan appeared to be Carrick and Scholes in midfield pushing on with Hargreaves running around tackling people. Darren Fletcher had yet to become awesome, and with Rooney, Ronaldo and the Argie Troll running around up front everyone was shitting themselves.

Even when those lot didn’t play together, Carrick’s role was more advanced, much like the role he played at West Ham and Spurs. This was in tune with his natural game, which is as a passing playmaker. I’m thinking Andrea Pirlo as opposed to Gennaro Gattuso.

Given that Scholes has gone on longer than anyone could have dreamed of, we probably expected Carrick and Hargreaves to be our midfield two in the long term, with Carrick going forward balancing Hargreaves holding.

However, due to the injury nightmare that Hargreaves has endured, Darren Fletchers poor form and Scholes’ age, Carrick has often been the best choice to hold this midfield this season, playing further back where he is not as comfortable and can’t influence the game in the same way. Here is a comparison between Carrick’s role in the Liverpool game and a random victory plucked from the start of the 07/08 season.

 by Guardian Chalkboards

The percentages show the location of Michael Carrick when he played a pass. The top example, against Liverpool, shows Carrick making 48% of his passes in his own half, and only 19% in the attacking third. Whilst he’s also making more passes, his completion isn’t great for a midfielder, with only 77% being successful against Liverpool.

The other example (A 2-0 win over Chelsea) three and a half years ago shows him making 62% of his passes in the opposition half, and a quarter of his total passes were in the attacking third. His pass completion was also better (83%) suggesting his preference for the more advanced midfield role.

Michael Carrick is doing his best for the team. As others have pointed out, he regularly makes the most interceptions of anyone IN THE LEAGUE, and consistently makes the most of anyone in the Manchester United midfield. He is being asked by Ferguson to play a role he is unfamiliar with, and is giving it a very good go.

He also doesn’t moan about anything. Remember, this is the same Carrick who got on with it when he was asked to play at center-back last season during the height of our injury crisis. As we have seen with some of our Premier League rivals this season, it’s fucking annoying and makes your team shit if you’ve got some idiot in your squad moaning all the time. No names.

So, having an experienced professional who has been part of title-winning and Champions-League-winning sides in our squad for the next three seasons, who is also capable of playing a variety of roles with some success, is supposed to be a bad thing?

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