Michael Carrick made a welcome return from injury to face his former club on Wednesday. ManUtd.com tracks his route from lanky lad to Reds lynchpin…
The archetypal ‘Boy Wonder’ tale runs: toddler kicks ball in nappies, hurtles through age groups, bursts to prominence while barely above legal driving age. But that’s not Michael Carrick’s style. Although playing five-a-side at precisely that age suggests a prodigious genius, the Wallsend-born youngster’s evolution into world-class midfielder has been a slow-burning affair.
True, he represented the fabled Wallsend Boys Club, and spent every spare moment practising with younger brother Graeme, but Carrick was a devoted student, always focused on his schoolwork. His football talent was apparent, without being glaring. Although a star performer for Wallsend – a club known for unearthing rough diamonds – scouts were impressed, but not blown away. Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Sunderland ran the rule over this leggy prospect, but all shied away from commitment. Sunderland didn’t even offer him a trial.
“It was a hell of a loss for Newcastle not to have got Michael to the club as a 12-year-old,” admits former Magpies manager Glenn Roeder, who worked with Carrick at West Ham. “He’s probably the best player to come out of Newcastle for a generation. You can’t put in what God left out: Michael was born to be a footballer. I think they saw a tall lad who was skilful, but didn’t appear to have pace. He only played either side of the halfway line. But West Ham had a scout up here that took a fancy to him.”
Harry Redknapp was at the Upton Park helm when Carrick was snared, part of a golden Hammers generation which spawned Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand. Whereas the others were obvious thoroughbreds from day one, it took Carrick