30/10/2008 09:21, Report by Steve Bartram
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Attested development

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 time to settle. The personality and football intellect were ticked boxes, but the midfielder needed to catch up with himself physically.

“Michael came down at an early age, skinny as a rake,” Redknapp recalls. “He had a

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