Michael Carrick: Is Manchester United midfielder England's lost talent or overrated?

By Matthew HenryBBC Sport
Michael Carrick
Michael Carrick has played 463 times for Manchester United since joining from Tottenham in 2006

Michael Carrick is a player who divides opinion.

The 36-year-old will retire at the end of the season as one of the most decorated English players of the Premier League era, but successive England managers overlooked him.

So is he the lost midfield talent of England's golden generation or perennially overrated?

Trophies galore at Old Trafford

Sir Alex Ferguson and Michael Carrick

Carrick has won 12 major trophies during his Manchester United career, including five Premier League titles and a Champions League.

United ended three years without a league title in Carrick's first season following his £18m move from Tottenham, with the then 24-year-old making making 33 appearances, more than any other central midfielder.

He made 58 appearances in the Premier League over the next two seasons as United claimed a hat-trick of titles, as well as the Champions League in 2008.

Further titles followed in 2011 and 2013, with Carrick again playing a key role - in particular in 2012-13 when he played in 36 of the 38 league games as United won the title in Sir Alex Ferguson's final season.

Mike Phelan was United's first-team coach under Ferguson during that spell and described Carrick as a "crucial" part of the success.

"Carrick was the conductor of the orchestra," Phelan told BBC Sport. "He brought a calmness to proceedings.

"Certain players are gung-ho and expansive but Michael was very level. He had that calmness and assurance and that reflected on a lot of other players.

"There have been others before spoken about in the same bracket - the Glenn Hoddles of this world, who was the same type of player.

"He is up there with [Paul] Scholes, [Andres] Iniesta and [Sergio] Busquets and is definitely in that mould. High praise is warranted. To survive in a career like Michael has done is huge."

Manchester United starting XI in the 2008 Champions League final: Edwin van der Saar, Wes Brown, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick, Owen Hargreaves, Paul Scholes, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney
Carrick made the most appearances of any United central midfielder in the 2007-08 season as they won the Premier League and Champions League. This was the starting XI in the Champions League final

Underused or eclipsed with England?

Despite playing 463 times for United in a time when they won five titles in 11 years, Carrick was never an England regular.

He won just 34 caps for his country between his debut in 2001 and his last cap in 2015 - and only played one match at a major tournament.

So why did four England managers - Sven-Goran Eriksson, Steve McClaren, Fabio Capello and Roy Hodgson - all largely overlook him?

Carrick had strong competition for the central midfield position - namely Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, who won 220 caps between them.

But other midfielders without the trophy-winning record of Carrick have more caps.

Gareth Barry played 53 times for England, while Owen Hargreaves, a team-mate of Carrick's at Old Trafford, won 42 caps. Carrick did not go to Euro 2012, where Scott Parker played every game in defensive midfield.

The statistics partly back the managers up. Carrick has a 53% win ratio with England but, since his debut on 25 May 2001, the Three Lions have won 60% of matches without the midfielder.

In 2011, Carrick asked not to be considered for international duty, having not featured at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and withdrew from contention for Euro 2012 after becoming disenchanted with his lack of opportunities for his country.

Hodgson persuaded Carrick to return to England duty for a friendly against Italy shortly after that European Championship and went on to give him a further 11 caps.

"Michael was undoubtedly unlucky his area on the pitch was such a strong area for England over the period of time he was playing," said Hodgson, now in charge of Crystal Palace.

Michael Carrick playing for England against Ecuador at the 2006 World Cup
Michael Carrick only made one appearance for England at a major tournament

Does Carrick do enough? The stats

Unlucky perhaps, but what was it Carrick lacked? After all, Sir Alex Ferguson described him as the best central midfielder in English football.

Since joining United Carrick has scored just 17 goals - putting him 29th on the list of the Premier League's other English midfielders and below players like Barry, Steve Sidwell and Craig Gardner. He has provided 21 assists in his 315 league games at United - 19th best for English midfielders.

Carrick has played in a holding midfield position for the majority of his career - which explains those low attacking rankings - but in the defensive side of the role his stats are also bettered by other England rivals.

Both Barry and Parker - as well as Lee Cattermole and Mark Noble - have made more Premier League tackles.

Barry has also made the most interceptions of any English top-flight player since 2006-07, although Carrick does follow him in second place.

Unsurprisingly, the one area in which Carrick outscores Barry is passing.

Barry has made more passes in the Premier League but Carrick has a higher pass success rate and, notably, a higher number of Carrick passes have ended in the final third.

How Carrick compares to the Premier League's English midfielders since joining Man Utd
Passing accuracy4th

So should passing alone have been enough to see Carrick become more of an England regular? Is the decision to overlook Carrick vindicated in his statistics?

Phelan told BBC Sport that Carrick brought more to United than can be shown in numbers.

"Michael came with something that goes a little bit unnoticed," he said.

"He doesn't make crunching tackles and wasn't a player who would put his head into situations where he was going to get hurt or run around like a headless chicken.

"He was more assured than that and capable of just being a footballer, to link play. Those things go unnoticed in the hullabaloo of a football match.

"When making a football team you have to make sure everyone gels. Not everyone can be the same."

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