Michael Carrick’s Passing Display Helps Manchester United To Victory

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Another composed performance from the midfield maestro was crucial in United going back to the top of the league…

There is no finer sight in football than watching a player in complete control of his game. It can be a winger beating his full-back time and time again, a big striker winning everything that is played into him or even a goalkeeper commanding his box. But perhaps the most beautiful sight on a football pitch is studying a deep-lying midfielder as he controls the game like a conductor would an orchestra.

Michael Carrick was again excellent for Manchester United last night. Whether receiving the ball from the centre-backs on the half-turn or from the full-back and wingers, his appreciation of the bigger picture was perfect. He made a total of 96 successful passes from the 104 attempted, a percentage of 92%. But this wasn’t just a man passing the ball sideways and letting others go forward.

He hit 51 successful forward passes last night, many of them short, probing ones that put the Fulham defence under huge pressure. Overall from his 96 successful passes, 92 of them were short. If you were to make a film of his performance with one camera recording his every move you would need no commentary, only 90 minutes of classical music.

He never looks like he is struggling because his starting position is perfect. He anticipates where the ball is going to arrive from the opposition and makes little five-yard runs into space so he can receive the ball from his teammates. His statistics from the game show that he didn’t make any tackles. He doesn’t need to, those little 5 yard runs are crucial to the counter-attacking football Manchester United favour, and when you see he received the ball 89 times in all areas of the pitch it proves further that he is the man who starts everything.

Because of the quiet way he goes about his game, Carrick is unlikely to win Player of the Year awards. But students of the game will point to the remarkable consistency of his performances and how they have played a large part in Manchester United’s unbelievable run of form. What’s more, if England are looking to play a more continental possession style of football in Euro 2012, they would be foolish not to deploy Carrick at the base of the midfield.