Michael Carrick has never lost a Premier League title race with United having been a champion every year since he signed from Tottenham in the summer of 2006. Although yet to suffer the pain of a losing fight for the league crown, he won’t become blasé as he seeks an historic fourth success in a row. The England midfielder uses the bitter memories of a failed relegation battle and an FA Cup final defeat as his spur to fire him to more glory with the Reds.
The 28 year old was part of the West Ham side which suffered the drop in 2003 and six days after his debut title win at Old Trafford he tasted defeat against Chelsea at Wembley in the 2007 Cup Final. Those agonies enabled him to quickly buy into United’s winning mentality.
“What helped me a lot after winning the league for the first time was being beaten in the FA Cup final by Chelsea. That brings you back down to earth pretty quickly” Carrick explained. “Straight after that I was thinking I want to be a winner. I don’t want this feeling of losing a final again. That helped me, from then on when you do win something, it becomes a natural thing to look to the next one”
“You become even more determined to win it because you know how tough it is to lose. I have also been relegated with West Ham so I always remember that as well and it provides a stark reminder of the other side of the coin. I think about it quite regularly, it keeps coming back and hitting me. It was a big thing for me, a sobering experience. No matter how much title success I’ve had with United it’s easy to remember some bad times as well. It helps to keep your feet on the ground and not take things for granted”
“Every match is important now, that is the main focus. When you are so close to the end of the season and you are really fighting, the focus and motivation is not a problem at this club. We know it is so important not to get carried away, we cannot afford to look too far ahead. If you start looking four or five matches ahead then it will come back and bite you, it’s a step at a time”
While this Premier League dogfight has been the closest of his four with United, Carrick says his first was still the toughest. “I think my first title run in was the hardest because I knew I was so close to a great achievement, it was mentally tough. I was desperate to get over the line and win it but this one is definitely the closest.”
It appears that some people equate a players skill with running around like a chicken with its head chopped off, Carrick will never be that player. Class players never seem to hurry, they simply read the game and manage to be in the right place at the right time which is when they can turn on the pace.
Carrick is that type of midfield player who looks first and is often right on the money when he delivers. Does he mess up from time to time? Sure he does, and when he does it shows up like a nun in a brewery. The measure of this man was how well he did when he stepped in to play centre half, having never played the position before.
As for running a little scared of losing, most players worth their salt have that feeling while others seem to have ice water in their veins. In some ways Carrick is similar to Paddy Crerand, who was the king of the measured pass. During his warm up at Wembley prior to the 1963 FA Cup Final, Crerand spent a few minutes testing the turf for pace, then during the game played the sort of passes that seemed to stop right in front of his intended target.
Carrick has acquired that certain United winning mentality which at the end of the season should succeed in keeping the title at Old Trafford…and retain his 100% title winning record at United!
Is Carrick ready to win a regular spot in the England team?