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21/01/2012 08:28, Report by Steve Bartram
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Centre of excellence

Roy Keane and Paul Scholes loom largest as two of the outstanding central midfielders of the Premier League’s history, and their exploits are still fresh enough in the memory – especially now that the latter has returned for an encore – to invoke comparisons for anybody brave enough to follow them.

Despite ending a 70-game goal drought with relatively quickfire strikes against QPR and Bolton in recent weeks, Carrick’s scoring ratio compares unfavourably with that of Scholes, who has averaged a goal every five games. Nor does he bang heads with the ferocity of Keane. In his five and a half seasons at Old Trafford, Carrick has picked up eight Premier League bookings. Keane mustered as many in 35 appearances during United’s Treble season.

But such juxtapositions, in this instance, are rendered futile on grounds of differences in style and role. Scholes knows better than most just how important Carrick has been, and will continue to prove, to the Reds’ ambitions.

“I've always found him very easy to play with,” says the veteran midfielder. “He's capable of doing anything. He can score goals, he can create goals, he's a great passer of the ball, he's a big strong lad with a lot of presence, he can run all day long. He's great for team-mates.

“Over the last six years at the club he's been terrific, one of the most underrated players the Premier League has had. Since he's come we've won the league in all-but one season - that says it all. You need players like Michael to be successful. He's a total team player, which players around him really appreciate.

“There's no better player at just keeping the ball and keeping it simple. You wouldn't want to be on the opposing team when you're chasing the game, because Michael's great at keeping the ball. He can hit long passes as well as short passes. He's such an unselfish player, players really look forward to playing with him.

“From playing with him, from Ryan Giggs playing with him, from Wayne Rooney playing with him, we all recognise how important he is to the team and at the end of the day that's the important thing: that your team-mates know what you're doing in the team. As long as they and the manager are happy, that's all that matters.”

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