The advice Sir Alex gave to Carrick
Manchester United's caretaker manager Michael Carrick sat down for a Q&A session with Inside United in 2018, at the beginning of his coaching career.
Michael had retired from football at the end of the 2017/18 season and then embarked on a quest to gain his coaching badges.
He first worked as part of Jose Mourinho's backroom staff, before helping Ole Gunnar Solskjaer during his three years in charge. On Tuesday, Carrick took charge of his first senior game as boss, as the Reds beat Villarreal 2-0 in Spain to clinch top spot in Champions League Group F.
Our interview with Carras covered his whole playing career at the club, but there are some valuable insights shared, including the best piece of advice he received from former gaffer Sir Alex Ferguson.
You can read it in full below...
Do you remember the first thing Sir Alex Ferguson said to you during the summer of 2006 when United declared an interest in you? How did he envisage your role within the team?"We didn't really speak about that, to be honest. He didn't need to sell the club in any way; he didn't need to sell it to me in terms of where I played or how I played or anything. As soon as I knew they were interested it was a no-brainer: I was coming regardless. But the first time I met him and went into his office for the first time and had that one-on-one conversation, it was quite nerve-wracking. It was more of an introduction. He just said: “You'll enjoy it here. You'll love playing for this club. It's a great club, and you're playing with great players. Hopefully you work hard and improve. You've got to live up to the standards that we've set over the years."
How much do you recall of your first day of training with your team-mates?"It was daunting! I was 25 at the time, quite established - I had played for England – but walking into that United dressing room was daunting. There were big characters and world-class players. It's two-fold, really. You've got to fit into the dressing room, find your place in there and create relationships - but then you've also got to gain the trust of the lads on the pitch as well, through training and playing. It's a massive part of integrating with the squad. And having to do that with the players I was stepping into the squad with was daunting. But at the same time it was a big challenge and something that I was really excited about."
The league campaign was incredibly tight that first year, 2006/07. How did United manage to find an extra gear when coming from behind to overhaul Chelsea?"I think it was a bit of everything. There was a huge amount of belief in each other and individual confidence, and the spirit within the group was unbelievable. The belief and the trust in each other was there, and obviously an awful lot of quality as well. Someone would step up when we needed them to. We always had players that we thought would create chances and score goals for us, which was a massive thing to have. So we always felt in a game, whether we were 1-0 down or 2-0 down, that we'd get opportunities towards the end of the game to."
You've mentioned getting to grips with the intensity of training and earning the trust of your team-mates during your first few months. Was there one match or moment were you thought to yourself: this is where I belong?"Not really, no, I think it was just over time. Probably the highlight of that first season for me was the Roma game – winning 7-1 at home. But there was a gradual build-up and improvement as time went on and I felt more and more comfortable. I couldn't really say there was one moment that stands out. I was just so happy to be here playing with a team as good as we were. Tottenham, where I came from, had a good team, but it was such a big jump to playing with the team that I'd joined. I was more in awe of being in the team and just enjoying the experience."
Cristiano Ronaldo won the Ballon d'Or in 2008 but our success that season was down to the whole squad, wasn't it?"I think it was a squad effort. That was the beauty of it. I think if you're going to win the league and the Champions League in the same year [it has to be]. We feel we let the FA Cup slip away and we had a good chance in that, so that niggles away at us a little bit. But to be successful everywhere, you can't rely on one, two, three players; the whole squad played their part. I couldn't really single anyone out for special praise. the start – earning the trust of the players was one of the first things you try to do when you come into the club. So for them to vote you player of the Year was very special."
The 2012/13 campaign is widely regarded as your best in a United shirt. You were voted Players' Player of the Year - quite an achievement given Robin van Persie scored 30 goals that season. What made it such a great season for you?"Form-wise, I think it was just the case that I had quite a bit of experience by that time, at the age I was. Physically I was at my peak. I could still do everything that I wanted to but with the experience, and everything just fell into place. I felt at my best and playing my best football. I enjoyed it, felt comfortable, felt confident and, when you're like that, everything comes a little bit easier. In terms of winning the award, to have that from your fellow players was one of my most special achievements, and one that I hold really close to me."
Which signing impressed you most when you first saw them train?"God, it's a tough one, that! [Smiles] A very tough one. Robin van Persie stood out. He was a proven, established top Premier League player at the time. We've had other players that have come in younger and developed and become really good players, but Robin was a ready-made player to step straight into the squad. He hit the ground running and looked comfortable, so maybe he's the one that stands out."
What did you learn from Sir Alex and was his influence as much on your character as a man?"Yes. I did change a little bit, coming to United. Sir Alex was at the top of the tree, so he set everything going, but I learned just as much from the changing room, to be honest, the players within the dressing room who had the experience of winning things and how they went about that. I looked at them just as much, but obviously that came down from the manager over the years so, ultimately, it was from him. But certainly the senior players were a massive influence on me, probably without me really knowing it at the time."
What does it take to become 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 expectation here. There are a lot of players who can be at a certain level of talent, technical ability or potential, but the difference is living with and being able to perform under pressure and at the standard you're expected to hit week-in, week-out. It's doing it over a period of time and consistently, 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! [Smiles] From one week to the next you can be the best player in the world and then 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 from a United colleague?"It sounds very simple advice, but Sir Alex used to say it quite a bit – well, 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, 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 I'm still good friends with him. We've been through some unbelievable times - pretty much all my best memories have been alongside him. We've come through together and achieved quite a bit together. 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 been the standout moment of that period as skipper?"It's special to be captain of this club. I came when Gary Neville was captain and he was an unbelievable captain in how he went about things here, and I played under Rio Ferdinand, under Nemanja Vidic, Ryan Giggs and Patrice Evra, and then Wayne Rooney. 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 maybe a bit more about guidance and keeping everything in check. 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."
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 when I say that. 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. For me, it's the pride they take in supporting the lads. At times it's easy to turn and get despondent and disappointed, and there have been times 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 very special."
Finally, looking forward, what do you think you'll bring to coaching and 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. Doing my badges over the last three or four years is something that I've really enjoyed, and working with the Academy doing the under-14s and under-15s. It's totally different coaching them to how you coach the first team, and the information that you give and how you are with them. It's really interesting to get into, and I'm looking forward to trying to develop that and seeing how good I can be."