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Visual Evidence Of The Difference Michael Carrick Makes For Man Utd

Visual Evidence Of The Difference Michael Carrick Makes For Man Utd
By Mikey Traynor

When Manchester United's team sheet for their away trip to Swansea was published last Sunday, there was disbelief and a sinking feeling that another poor performance was on the horizon.

Why? Because Matteo Darmian and Ashley Young were the fullbacks, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones were the centre-back pairing, and Pogba and Fellaini were playing together in midfield which has not worked in the past. Not to mention the inclusion of Wayne Rooney and a supposedly misfiring Ibrahimovic from the start.

It looked bleak, but within roughly 30 mins those same Man Utd fans that felt sick were feeling something that will have been all to rare to them in recent times... Comfort.

Sitting pretty at half-time they were 3-0 up and the game was won, the foot could come off the gas. So what happened? Why did such a shaky looking side put in a much improved performance?

Well, firstly, Swansea are crap. This wasn't a 'Man United are back!' type game, this was a return to the ways of old when a routine win was a routine win, but Bob Bradley's Swansea Swans have caused problems to a number of good sides this season so credit must be given for killing the game early and not allowing the crowd to get involved.

Secondly, Michael Carrick played in midfield.

Manchester United fans have been curious as to the lack of involvement seen from Carrick this season, and even found themselves agreeing with Michael Owen during the week, but this time Jose gave him the start and it made an unquestionable difference.

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There are many things that Carrick brings to the table, and we've clipped out a few screenshots from the first 20 minutes of the game (where the match was won) to show just how valuable an asset he still is to the team.

Dropping deep to ease the burden as a 3rd CB.

This is something that Carrick is so good at, it has seen him become an option for several Manchester United managers at centre-back.

Daley Blind is the only defender who can really pick a pass for United, as Marcos Rojo is completely wild and the rest of them, bar maybe Chris Smalling who used to love a surge forward but has since stopped due to fear (presumably), don't have it in the locker.

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When Carrick drops deep, the team's shape is held as neither CB has gone wandering, and the players ahead know that he can get the ball to them, thus they try some more adventurous runs. Which brings us nicely onto...

Purposeful passing.

Simply put, too many Manchester United players opt for the safe pass. Ander Herrera genuinely tries to link up play, and Wayne Rooney loves spraying a wide ball to include on his MOTD highlights, but other than that it's all too crab-like.

Carrick, once criticised for his safe passing, is still passing like he is being managed by Alex Ferguson. When he fizzes a pass into feet, he makes the decision for the recipient, whether that be to take a man on or have a shot. There's no time to get the head up and look around before rolling it back to a defender who will give it back to De Gea.

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Carrick's between-the-line passing encourages quicker, more instinctive play, and not only is that what the fans want to see, but it bloody works.

Marking the main opposition threat.

Morgan Schniederlin's finest performance, arguably his only really good performance, in a Man Utd shirt came in the home fixture against Arsenal last season, when he shadowed Mesut Ozil and almost nullified one of the league's most dangerous players completely.

Carrick has the experience to offer that protection to the back four while also keeping up his responsibilities with the ball. Right from the start we saw him refusing to give Gylfi Sigurdsson any breathing room, which in turn crippled Swansea's attack.

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Judging by the amount of goals Man Utd have conceded to late midfield runs arriving in the box when he isn't on the pitch, it's something that is badly needed.

The "Quarterback" role.

Ah yes, the QB role, while almost a cliche at this stage, applies better to Carrick than it does to anyone else.

The above screenshot shows why, as when Carrick gets the ball, the rest of the team spring into action. If he opts against going wide, he has two dangerous passes that he is well capable of making to either Pogba or Fellaini, and if not he has the safety of Zlatan coming short. The "line of scrimmage" is an invisible line that the "QB" should not cross with his midfield partners ahead of him.

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Freedom to teammates.

This really is the big one, and the reason so may have wanted to see Carrick start every game possible. How was it that Pogba and Fellaini are the furthest players forward in both of the last two screenshots? Because they know that Carrick is minding the gaf.

He's not in the above screenshot, but you know he's there. Rooney and Zlatan both decided to come short, so the two other midfielders were allowed to bomb on.

An almost safety-blanket security that Carrick brings gets the best out of Paul Pogba, as he has shown with his two best performances so far (vs Fenerbache at home and vs Swansea away) coming with Carrick keeping guard behind him.

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Ander Herrera has played that role, but he doesn't have the positional awareness that Carrick has, and as good a player as he is, one of the strengths of his game is getting at the opposition and pressing high, which has seen gaps appear in behind.

That's why you see the likes of Paul Scholes crying out for a midfield three featuring Carrick, Ander Herrera, and Paul Pogba. One keeping things clean and tidy in front of the fence, one buzzing around box to box and doing a little bit of everything, and one free to strutt his stuff in the final third.

Managing his games is the only obstacle, but Michael Carrick should be one of the first names on the teamsheet whenever he is available.

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