You can't afford to miss our full Q&A with Carrick
Michael Carrick is the latest United legend to speak on our daily MUTV Group Chat.
Our current first-team coach was quizzed on a range of topics on Thursday, such as his thoughts on the season returning, taking a penalty in the 2008 Champions League final, and what he thinks of the current United squad.
Here is every word Michael said during the in-depth interview...
It’s great to have you with us, how are you?
“I’m good. I’m just getting used to this different routine really, and then trying to get used to what’s coming next. I’m in-between at the moment, in a bit of limbo.”
What’s more difficult, looking after 25-30 professional footballers or home-schooling?
“I tell you what, there’s not much in it. Both are a big enough challenge. I’m trying to keep on top of both as well. I’m on group calls and sessions with the boys. I’m trying to work that around the kids. But I must admit my wife has taken over the teacher role more than me. She’s probably better at it!”
You mentioned staying in touch with Ole and the players, how does that work? How often are you in touch and what type of things are happening at the moment?
“It’s different phases. At the start, we left the lads alone [doing their own fitness routines] because we were quite relaxed about it and could probably sense that it could be a good few weeks or months. We were conscious of not being too intense with them at the start and then gradually increased it as we go. As of this week, they’re now on compulsory sessions. Up until now it’s been optional really, but it shows how bored they are that most of them are on it anyway. It’s good and we’re just desperate to come back. They’re looking forward to getting back to what they know best. We’re just increasing it as we go and staying in touch every midweek day. We’re just staying in touch and seeing what’s next, like everyone else.”
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“Yeah, that’s the biggest challenge: not really having a date. That’s why we’ve tried to gradually increase it and we’re just giving ourselves the best chance to be ready, if, and when, we start. It’s the same as everyone – it’s not just about us and the players, it’s about everyone in every walk of life. Everyone has got jobs to go back to and not knowing is the biggest issue. You can’t plan and you’re not sure what’s next. It’s mixed emotions with it and it can be difficult. We’re just trying to make the best of it and the lads have been great with everything we’ve asked them to do. It’s not easy and they’ve got to take the responsibility themselves and train on their own. They’ve been great but we’re looking forward to getting back, whenever that is.”
If, or when, the season restarts, do you know how long players would ideally need to be ready?
“It’s such a difficult thing to call because it’s unprecedented, this situation. You’re using your experience and obviously, we’re using the experts to judge it. Even coming back for pre-season, some of the lads come back and they’re flying, whereas some lads you don’t see them until September. It can take five or six games to get started – I was probably one of them. Every club is going to be in that situation and it’s a balance. It’s the prevention of injuries as well. You can’t expect them to be training on their own at home and then in a short space of time expect them to play in a Premier League game. That’s the concern, probably not the fitness levels, it’s the injury prevention.”
I suppose making sure the lads are mentally okay must be a part of this as well? Everyone’s worried about their families, of course, and players are no different. Is that something you need to check out?
“That’s the priority. I think you’ve got to make sure everyone’s all right, and everyone’s so different. Some of the younger boys are still living in digs, some are back living with their parents and some have got families here. Some have got gyms, some haven’t. There are all sorts of things that you’ve got to balance. Primarily, we’re talking about getting back to fitness and playing games, but also it’s about if they’re okay [psychologically]. Like all of us, you want to make sure your friends and families are okay. They’re, obviously, part of our family and we want to make sure that, as humans, they’re alright and then the sport and the lifestyle can come after that.”
Before the break, the lads were flying and we seemed to be getting into a bit of rhythm, so this has come at the wrong time. Do you see us getting straight back into it or will it take a bit of time to get up to speed?
“I’d hope so, because you’re in the right frame of mind and the lads were getting into good habits. The understanding and thinking was clicking and you could definitely see there was progression. It’s hard to know. We’re hoping for it and the signs are still there from the boys: how engaged they are and with what they’ve shown recently. I don’t doubt that they’ll be fine when we get back, it’s just because it’s different – there is an element of unknown. It’s such a good group; the spirit is fantastic and it’s come on loads. I’m looking forward to it and we’ve got a full squad to pick from. There’s competition for places and what is the team going to look like? Who’s going to come back looking sharper? There’s a lot to take on, but I’m looking forward it and there are certainly exciting times to come.”
It’ll be like have two new players back as Paul and Marcus should be fit by then as well…
“It’s great news and I think if you look back at the season we’ve always had players out. We’ve probably never had our strongest team – by that I mean the bulk of the squad to pick from. So now, it’s great. I think, as a player, when you’ve got that competition, it does spur you on. In your position, when there’s a bit of rivalry, not like hatred, but the competitive one, you can push each other in training and games without even realising. In the back of your mind, you know if you don’t play well then someone else has a chance of playing. I think everyone benefits from that.”
You came through at West Ham – United have a history of signing the likes of yourself, Rio and Paul Ince. What are the similarities between coming through at West Ham that you see at United? Some of the young lads have spoken about how you helped them settle into the first team…
“I was always conscious of that. When I was coming through at West Ham there was always that connection with the first team. Even when I was 13 or 14 I’d go in on school holidays and be in and around the first team. I think that’s something we’re conscious of and try and keep at the club. Even when you’re playing – I remember the effect Wes Brown used to have on the kids coming through, because you’d take them to one side, have a chat with them and understand where they’re coming from. That just builds the connection and I think that’s so important. That’s the biggest similarity, it’s the connection. It’s huge for a young boy to come into this situation and it’s different having players that look after them and don’t just see them as a threat to their position.”
Are there any accolades in your career that you cherish more than any others?
“Winning the Champions League, for me, is the ultimate of what I achieved. That feeling, that night in Moscow was pretty special. I’ve got a few photos of me and Wes dancing around with that trophy. That was a special night. On a personal level, the one that meant a lot to me was the Players’ Player of the Year in 2012/13, the last time we won the league. It meant a lot for me because the lads see you every day and you want the trust from the lads. I always enjoyed that side of it, so to get that respect on a personal level, that meant a lot to me.”
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Earlier on you said we’d just clicked before the lockdown and that did coincide with Bruno coming into the side. Some people have compared him to Paul Scholes, can you see that?
“He’s got great quality, but I think it’s a little unfair to compare him to Scholesy. They’re both individuals and sometimes I think it’s a bit too easy to tag them with a name that’s previously gone before him. Bruno’s a great player, he’s got great attributes and he’s made such a difference. It can be a tough club to come into and make a big impact straight away. Sometimes it can take a while to come in and get used to your surroundings. He’s come in and was probably what we were looking for at the time. The timing was right, in and around the squad, for that bit of a boost. He’s got an eye for a pass and what I like about him is that he’s not afraid to give the ball away. He’s trying to do the right thing and if he gives it away once or twice then he’ll go again and try it again, and I think we’ve all seen that with the passing and the assists. I’m sure he’ll score more goals. He’s had a massive influence on us.”
That final game before the lockdown in Austria was behind closed doors. We know now that when we do come back it’s going to be behind closed doors. That night was so weird and what was it like for you?
“If you ask the lads they probably didn’t like it much, as they can probably hear me and Ole shouting at them. It’s better for us as you can tell them what to do and they can hear you – they've got no excuse to ignore you [laughs]. Yeah, it was strange in a way and then you’re just down to business. Yeah, maybe that little bit of extra adrenaline and emotion that you get from the fans, we’re not going to get that. But, in terms of how you approach it and your jobs within the game, that stays the same. You’re just going to lose that atmosphere. I’m not saying anything we don’t already know, but that’s why we love the game and that’s why we play at the top level: to feel Old Trafford bouncing on a big occasion. It’s something we all crave. But in terms of preparation and how you execute it, it’s pretty much the same.”
The last game at Old Trafford, the atmosphere against Man City was unbelievable. I suppose that showed the difference a crowd can make?
“It’s that theatre. Any fan or player who’s been involved, if you mention a night or something like that, it brings a smile and it gives you little goosebumps. It’s that experience and emotion and, unfortunately, you might not get that when no one is really watching and it’s just the players on the pitch. That’s a shame and that’s where we are. It’s something we have to deal with and I thought they applied themselves ever so well when we were behind closed doors. You’re never totally sure and mentally it’s a challenge for them when the juices aren’t totally flowing because you feed off what the lads are used to: the occasion and what that brings. Sometimes you go out and mentally you’ve got to get yourself in that place. That’s going to be the challenge for everyone to adapt and who does that best will come out on top.”
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We had Kieran McKenna on the Group Chat recently. How are you enjoying working with Kieran? How are you enjoying part of being part of the backroom staff?
“I’m really enjoying it. Kieran’s coaching… I saw it a few years ago when he was coaching the Under-18s and I was still playing. On international breaks when there aren't many players left, you end up training with the Under-23s and Under-18s and Kieran would take a lot of those sessions. I’d seen with my own eyes what a good coach he was. He’s helped me through immensely and I’ve leant on him a lot. Coaching was new to me, but I knew the environment and could help him with that, but the coaching side of it, he’s been terrific. I’ve got a lot to thank him for and I’ve learnt a lot from him. I have leant on him an awful lot. We’ve got a nice mix as a coaching group at the moment, so there’s a nice spirit and we look after each other, which helps us all improve.”
We were talking about his excellent 5k time and he said you were more of a long-distance man?
“A bit more of a plodder, is that what he means [laughs]? There have been some crazy quick times from the players. I was thinking about getting involved and having a go, but I quickly realised I’m not at that level anymore. I don’t mind a little bit longer: 10k or 20k. I did the Great North Run which was 20k and I don’t mind that. I didn’t do it as a player, but I’ve got into it and it frees my head from the day-to-day stresses of life.”
The club has been contributing a lot during this horrendous time with the Foundation. What about your own Foundation, have you been getting involved in projects to help people?
“Yeah, it's been a challenge because a lot of the projects, which we team up with the Man United Foundation to put on, through Carrick’s Street Reds in Stretford – obviously that project can’t run as it’s set out to run. There have been challenges to adapt. We’re still out there and we’re still funding. We’re still trying to change in different ways, exactly like the Man United Foundation is doing, we’re working together on that. We’re still with the Newcastle United Foundation as well. Fortunately, we’re in a position where we can keep the funding going at the moment. It hasn’t affected us that way; it’s more the kids we’re trying to help, as they can’t attend the sessions. That’s difficult and quite sad for us – that we feel we want to help but we can only help in a limited way. But the Man United Foundation have been amazing in adapting and how they’ve changed and supplied different services, whether it’s food, pencils, pens and papers for kids to do their homework. All sorts of different things. It’s still ongoing and we’re looking forward to getting back to normal. It’s just frustrating that you want to help that little bit more but we’ve been limited.”
You worked under the best manager of all time. You’ve also worked under van Gaal and Mourinho – are you looking at some point in the future to take on a managerial role, or are you thinking that coaching really suits you?
“I think it’s difficult to plan ahead with that. Maybe a part of thinks one day I’d like to have a go at it, and then another part sees how it is and I’m not too sure. When you see what really goes on, you’re not too sure you want to go down that route. There is a part of me that thinks maybe I’ll one day have a go, but that’s not really on my radar at the moment. I’m learning off Ole, but I’m not consciously looking to learn off him. I’m enjoying the role I’ve got and I’m trying to make the most of it. Naturally, I’ll learn as I go, but at the moment it’s not on my radar. In years to come, maybe, but football’s football and we never know what’s round the corner.”
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The 2008 Champions League final, stepping up to take that penalty, which you scored, what was going through your head? Did you know where you were going to put it?
“I knew where I was going to put it but it’s the most awful feeling in the world. Unless you’re the ultra-confident, super-arrogant type, full of self-belief, I don’t see how you can enjoy that moment. You’re thinking that there’s so much to lose. But I knew where I was going to put it. That was my favourite one, my most natural one. So I thought I should just go with what I know best. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t praying that he’d dive the wrong way, and luckily he did. But so many great players have missed in that situation over the years. It can happen to anyone and you just pray it doesn’t happen to you.”
Ronaldo missed straight after you…
“That’s what I mean, and he’s missed other ones as well. I think he’s missed one for Madrid in shootouts. That’s how it is and that’s how unfortunate it can be at times. I wanted to get it out of the way really; I wanted to be second or third and do it early. I didn’t fancy going to number four or five. Once it was out of the way the relief was immense, knowing I’d done what I could do. I still didn’t enjoy the rest of it, mind you, until the end. But at the end, wow, what a feeling when Edwin saved that penalty.”
How long was that walk?
“I jogged. I couldn’t walk. I thought ‘the longer I have to think about this, the worse it’s going to get’. I’ve always jogged in shootouts, as soon as the one in front of me has gone I’ve thought about getting it over as quick as I can because the longer you think, the more that goes through your head and it can spiral pretty quickly. So, I got there as a quick as I could and took it as well as I could.”
It’s pretty much 15 years you’ve been up here. You’ve had plenty of highs and not too many lows. Do you look at it now and think we are right on our way back to where we want to be?
“There’s certainly a really good feeling in and amongst the players and the staff, and in the club. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves as we’ve not achieved anything yet. We’re not getting carried away, but there is certainly a nice connection about the place. We’re trying to do things in the right way. Ole has come in and he’s doing everything in the right way for the club. He’s talking about the whole club and the fans, and what it means, to have a connection with everyone. I think that’s quite powerful as it builds. I think that gets you through tough patches as well, which we’ve had to deal with. But if you do it for the right reasons and you mean well, and there’s progression, then hopefully that means more. Hopefully we can carry on with the progression we’ve been on. I’ve always felt, even when we had those runs last year and they weren’t easy to deal with, I always thought we’d be alright, and time will tell if that pans out. At the moment, I’m excited with what’s ahead.”
We always ask ex-players when they come on for a six-a-side team of players they played with at United…
“Rio went in goal once, so I’m saying Rio can play half-and-half. I apologise to David and Edwin, but I want an outfielder. I’m going Rio, Scholesy, Giggsy, Wazza, Ronaldo… I’ll go all from the past then so that I’m not putting anyone in from the current team – I’m not leaving anyone out then. I’ll put myself in as a sixth. I’ll be like a centre-back. I had to cover for Rio enough as it was, so I’ll let him go in goal!”
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