The World Cup can provide Manchester United and England midfielder Michael Carrick with a chance to not only salvage his international career but to save his future at Old Trafford. That’s what United’s 1968 European Cup winner David Sadler believes and he has a good idea of what can happen in football. The United legend clearly recalls World Cup winner Geoff Hurst appearing out of nowhere to become a national hero in a matter of weeks.
Hurst will be the furthest name from Carrick’s mind at the moment but England’s 1966 hat trick hero’s story from all those years ago may give the United midfielder a good dose of inspiration. Many observers were certain that Carrick would not make the cut in Fabio Capello’s squad of 23 for South Africa but they were wrong. Whether or not he deserved another chance is immaterial, the England manager gave him the benefit of the doubt.
The next few weeks may see Carrick simply warming the bench with very few minutes of game time but at least he will be there to grab his chance should an unexpected opportunity come his way. It’s a situation eerily similar to the one faced by Hurst fourty four years ago. Sadler who was himself a late omission from Sir Alf Ramsey’s 1970 squad having made the provisional 28, cites Hurst as a classic example of an unlikely hero emerging from the pack.
The former West Ham striker was only there to make up the numbers, understudying the great Jimmy Greaves at the start of the tournament but suddenly became a nations hero when his Wembley hat trick took England to the summit of world football.
Sadler is not holding his breath waiting for Carrick to win the trophy for his country but sees the similarities between the two situations. “Why not?” he asks “Often the team that starts the tournament doesn’t look a lot like the one that ends it. There are lots of examples of unlikely heroes coming through. It’s not always the 11 best individuals that make up a World Cup winning team. The important thing for Carrick is that he’s there”
“He’s made it into the squad and while everyone is fit I can’t see him getting into the starting line up but should he get the opportunity, he’s got to grab it with both hands” is the srtrong words of advice he gives to Carrick. “It could be so important for his career. It’s not only England that he’s fighting to be involved with, it’s also at United.”
Manchester City’s Gareth Barry has a head start on Carrick for a midfield position but the injury he suffered in the lead up to the tournament may give the United man the unexpected chance he must have been hoping for. Sadler is hoping that he does “I’m a big fan and think he has a lot to offer a team.” he admits “I think he can do it for England if he gets the chance. If he does, I’m sure he won’t waste it.”
Sadler will be first to admit however that Carrick only squeezed into the 23 man squad and came very close to missing out. “He did not enjoy a good end of the season starting with the two performances in the Champions League quarter final” Sadler said “Carrick was unable to get a decent run of games for United after that and I’m sure that Michael would have been far from happy with his season overall”
A couple of solid displays for England in South Africa will do Carrick the world of good in his attempts to get his Old Trafford career back on an even keel. He has been in the game long enough to realise that just like Geoff Hurst found out many years before him, a footballers fortune can completely turn overnight.
Can Carrick get his game together in South Africa?