There are players who have flogged their guts out for their clubs throughout their whole careers without ever knowing what it’s like to hold a winning Premier League medal – think Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher. Then there are others like Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick who have collected 3 in his three seasons at Old Trafford and may well be on his way to maintaining a 100% record with a fourth in the next couple of weeks.
The England international should be sitting on top of the world contemplating a long career with The Reds and more medals to add to his collection. Instead, the 28 year old Carrick must be wondering what his future holds. His ambition of going to South Africa in June for his second World Cup and adding to his 21 caps since making his debut against the USA in 2005 is in the balance.
So what went wrong at an age when players are known to be at their best? When Sir Alex Ferguson paid Tottenham Hotspur £16m to take the classy midfielder to Old Trafford just before the start of the 2006-07 season, United had not won a Premiership since 2003 but Carrick soon proved his value with his wide range of passing which players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney appreciated so much.
The newcomer not only played a big role in the title going back to Old Trafford, he also found the net himself with 6 goals, 2 of which came in United’s 7-1 thrashing of Roma in the Champions League. It was the first major honour of his professional career but it was not to be his last, his appetite for medals had been whetted and he wanted more. Little wonder then that Carrick had no hesitation in agreeing to a new four year deal which will keep him at United until the end of the 2011-2012 season.
More silverware came thick and fast. Two more Premierships, Carling Cup, European Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup winners medals followed in quick succession but a glittering career has begun to go sour when it should be at its very peak. This season did not start well for Carrick, soon becoming clear that his performances were not up to scratch. United clearly had an overall midfield problem which was evident in the defeat by Barcelona in the Rome Champions League Final at the end of last season.
Tackling has never been one of Carrick’s strong points, allowing the opposition to take control of matches that United should have been able to take charge of. The perceptive awareness which is normally a feature of his passing game is no longer there and to be perfectly blunt, a serious lack of interest has become evident.
Although Ferguson must be worried about a distinct shortage of quality vision in the middle of the park, he has plenty of midfield options available with a strong possibility that at least one new name will be added in summer. It has to leave Carrick’s position under a cloud, raising the question of what went wrong after such a promising first couple of seasons.
It’s far from easy to produce a definite answer but one theory is that having won so many honours in the relatively short time that he has been at the club following barren spells at both West Ham and Tottenham, Carrick may no longer be carrying the necessary desire and hunger for the success that comes so frequently at a club like United.
How does Carrick rediscover his desire for more success?