As Michael Carrick approaches his final appearance for Manchester United, the midfielder has been speaking to the club's official magazine to reflect on an illustrious playing career.
The interview, which you can read in full in the new issue of Inside United, covers a range of topics including when Carrick first got into football, his first day of training with the Reds, his relationship with Sir Alex and that famous night in Moscow in 2008 when he helped the club to win the Champions League.
What does it take to be a successful Manchester United player?
There are a lot of different things. The biggest thing, I think, is being mentally strong enough to cope with the pressures and the expectations. I think there’s a lot of different players who can be at a certain level of ability or talent or potential or technical ability – whatever you want to call it – but I think the difference is living and being able to perform under the different pressures and the standards you’re expected to hit week in, week out. It’s to do it over a period of time and consistently, week in, week out, and holding that level of performance. I think that’s the toughest thing about playing at this club. The level of scrutiny is off the scale sometimes! From one week to the next you can be the best player in the world; you can be the worst player in the world! So that’s something you’ve got to deal with.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given by a United colleague?
It sounds very simple advice to be honest, but Sir Alex used to say it quite a bit, well pretty much before almost every game:
“Don’t be afraid to work hard and express yourself.” That’s something you could take into any walk of life, but it’s something that’s right, it works, and it’s something that we always took on board. It’s the simplest thing in life: to work hard. Nothing stops you from working hard, whether you’re good at it or not, you can still work hard at it and enjoy it and express yourself when you’re doing it. If you’re doing that then hopefully it’s a formula for success.
You took over the captaincy from Wayne Rooney, who you played with for so long and shared a lot of good memories with. How do you look back on your time together?
We’ve had some great times. I’ve known Wazza a long time now, and obviously I’m still close to him, and I’m still good friends with him. We’ve been through some unbelievable times and it’s just the memories. Pretty much all my best memories in football have been alongside him. We’ve come through together and achieved quite a bit together, so it’s always special to have that kind of bond with someone, that relationship where you kind of nod at each other as if to say, ‘We’ve been through this together’, which is nice.
When you look back through your career, where does being Manchester United captain rank and what’s being the standout moment of that period as captain?
It’s special to be captain of this club. I came when Nev [Gary Neville] was captain and he was an unbelievable captain in how he went about it here. I've also played under Rio, Vida, Giggsy and Patrice – for a little bit they all shared it – and then obviously Wayne. It’s a slightly different for me because I’m a bit older and coming towards the end, so it’s a bit more of a responsibility thing and I think maybe a bit more about guidance and keeping everything in check a little bit. So it’s a responsibility and it’s one that I was honoured to take on, and have not taken for granted at all. Even though it was only something for this season, it’s something I’ve enjoyed and I’m very grateful for having had the chance.
The must-watch tributes to CarrasVideo
What do you think you’ll bring to coaching? What are you most looking forward to?
I’m excited. It’s new. You can say going from playing into coaching fits together, but actually the more you look into going into coaching, it’s a totally different approach to how you are as a player. Studying for my coaching badges over the last three or four years is something that I’ve really enjoyed, and working with the Academy, the Under-14s and Under-15s. It’s totally different coaching them to how you coach the first team, in terms of the information how you are with them, and all that sort of stuff. It’s really interesting to get into, and I’m looking forward to just trying to develop and seeing how good I can be.
How do you sum up United fans, and the special role they play in making the club unique? Is there one moment of fan interaction that you’ve had outside the game that sticks out from your time here?
The fans always amaze us and I can speak on behalf of all the boys, I think. Obviously, Old Trafford is magical on a big night, when the atmosphere and the tension is there, and the anticipation. It’s magical. But a lot of the time, what stands out for me is the away support. Wherever we go, it’s incredible. We’ve had some great nights and we’ve had some bad nights away from home, but the fans have always been with us and they’ve always been there. For me, it’s almost the pride they take in supporting the lads properly. At times it’s easy to turn and get despondent and disappointed, and we’ve given them enough of that over the years for them to be quite angry and upset with us. But they take pride in sticking with us and showing their loyal support, which is something quite special.
Focus on the captain Gallery
Our favourite shots from Michael's Inside United interview and photoshoot.