After spell which saw them register 483 consecutive draws, Saturday evening's 2-0 victory at the Hawthorns - their third on the bounce - could yet prove a turning point in Manchester United's season.
The late win at Palace on Wednesday previous may well transpire to be one of 'those' defining moments; José Mourinho resembled a bruised boxer who'd had a metric shit-ton of ammonia waved afront his nostrils, his defiant fist-pumping and acknowledgement of his players' efforts a far cry from his ongoing impression of a man who'd just discovered his dog was gravely ill.
In fairness to the Portuguese manager, 'his' United have been threatening to break out for some time now, but it would appear the return of the previously ostracised Michael Carrick has been a catalyst for a major upsurge in fortunes. Paul Pogba in particular has thrived since Carrick's reestablishment, with Ander Herrera too consistently showing his quality in a three-man central midfield.
But in a stats graphic compiled by MUFC, United's contrasting fortunes with and without their 35-year-old English conductor are put in stark context. Simply put, Mourinho's side are far better for having him in midfield.
With and without Michael Carrick: United's season to date
Perhaps the win percentages (83% with Carrick, 36% without) are most telling, but so too is the fact that United have scored over the double the goals in fewer total games with Carrick in the side as they have without.
And, while you have to allow for weaker defences in the Europa League when viewing United's prolificity in front of goal when Carrick anchors their midfield, it would be fair to suggest that the debate as to his effect on a team (when he's in form at least - which wasn't the case for large spells of last season) has now been settled. Indeed, it's surprising it's taken this long.
60% - @ManUtd's Premier League win percentage with Michael Carrick starting the last three seasons; without him it's 38%. Ticking.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 19, 2016
Mind you, reddit user justmadman was quick to add to a Carrick thread how, in terms of his effect on a team, he's really just a poor man's Yoan Gouffran; Newcastle United have played 21 games with Gouffran in the side this season, winning 18, drawing two and losing one. Without him? Five games, one win, four defeats.
"Oh-oh-oh it's Gouffran, you know..."
[submitted to r/soccer by angaxx]