Michael Carrick has reached a footballing zenith; serenely commanding and subtly, but unquestionably, influential.
The Players' Player of the Year, as voted for by his United team-mates, possesses an authority and control that players most usually only regularly achieve in their thirties – through experience and knowhow – and that prompts the key word for Carrick: consistency. The term is often applied to those regularly rating just above average, but the word ‘average’ looks like an outcast in a sentence describing Carrick this season, in which he has often been brilliant for United.
Controlling possession and the tempo of a team’s play is a skill mastered by the best central midfielders and, in his class of deep-lying playmakers, he’s currently among the finest. We’re spoilt for choice for matches Carrick has commanded. Take a relatively routine 3-1 win over Sunderland in December: United battered Martin O’Neill’s men in the first half and almost every attack started at our no.16’s feet. In truth, he did that to many teams.
Champagne moment: Rio Ferdinand described it as “the ball of the season” against Chelsea in March’s FA Cup tie, and the fact that beneficiary Javier Hernandez mostly celebrated alone said it all. Some 35 yards out, Carrick clipped a majestic diagonal ball over the defence for Chicharito to nod home. The pass was a thing of beauty.
Season in three words: Mr Consistent. Always.
More: Visit the Champions 2013 section