Michael Carrick was not just a calming influence on the pitch. The midfielder was also a level-headed, even-handed figure off it and he often stepped up to the plate when the media craved post-match analysis from inside the Manchester United camp. When the squad needed a rational spokesman, he was a go-to guy.
Whether we conversed on magic nights like Moscow in 2008, or on bleak evenings such as Midtjylland away in 2016, Carrick treated triumph and disaster in that same sensible sober way he played. You didn’t get outrageous, triumphant tub-thumping from the Geordie in joyous moments. Nor did you get the headline-hitting, scathing summaries in the wake of a defeat. He brought serenity to both positive and negative outcomes, high points and low spots.
Carrick's full farewell speechVideo
By the time he had reached the area where the written press were stood, you’d have thought he might have been all talked out after speaking to TV and radio reporters. But he still stopped for nearly 10 minutes to do his duty one final time.
So what was his mindset after playing his final game? Privately, there may soon be a time for emotional reflection but publicly, and fittingly for the man who played the match's decisive forward pass, he has adopted the tactic of looking to the future.
“I'm not sad about it [retiring as a player]. I've got other things to do and I focused on that before today,”he said.
“The game against Watford was the final chance to cut the cloth clean. Because I've got things to focus on, I'm more excited about the future than I am sad about looking back and thinking that it's over.”
As he moves permanently into a role on manager Jose Mourinho’s backroom team, will he have a say in his replacement on the pitch?
“We will have to wait and see!”he answered. ”I'm there to give my opinion but I don't have the final say at all. That's part of being on the staff, to work with the manager, to try to get what's best for the club, and support him in the best way I can. That will evolve and when he wants my opinion I'm there to give it.
“But I don't like the word 'replace' because you've got to evolve as a team. We've lost big players in the past. Huge players, bigger than me and the club has moved on and still been successful. I'm sure that will be the case again. I had the issue when I signed and it was all about Roy Keane, but I was never going to replace Roy Keane because it's not how I am. You've just got to evolve and find a way. There will be other players. There will be players here who will improve and progress and if anyone gets brought in, whoever gets brought in, the club will move on.”
“It's going to evolve. It's about getting used to the role. Being here over time, over the next season, I will see what works and how we work best. It's what about works best,”said Michael.
“I've obviously done a bit of coaching but it's with the younger age groups. I've done video work with some of the boys already. It's just getting the balance really.”
United's current no.16 plans to badger a few of his old colleagues, like Ryan Giggs – who was Louis van Gaal’s assistant – to pick up knowledge of being a backroom staff member. He has already had some conversations.
“I think it is important to do that. It's a no-brainer to try to pick people's brains to try to learn as much as I can. I will certainly be doing that,”he said.
“I'll just try to speak to as many people as I can – be a nuisance, be a pest. I'm just trying to learn, learn all the time from the manager, the coaches and other players.”
Watch the goal that beat WatfordVideo
“You've got to go step by step,”he acknowledges.
“I'm not getting carried away here. Just because I was a half-decent player it doesn't guarantee I'm going to be a success in whatever I do. I'm well aware of that. I'm not getting ahead of myself. Probably at this stage, my answer to your question would be 'yes'. But I don't want to be throwing quotes out there saying I want to be a manager!”
Carrick admitted that a break from the game had been among his options at one stage.
”A couple of years ago I thought maybe it would be a good thing to spend more time with the family but you never know what is going to be around the corner,” he said.
“It's all about timing and opportunities. As soon as this came up [a coaching role under Mourinho] I didn't think twice. He is one of the best. He's been around for many years. And I've been at this great club as a player so I know the club. I know the manager and the backroom staff. It all fits and hopefully it still fits in a couple of years' time.”
A day of goodbyes Gallery
Swipe through some of the best pics as Carrick plays his last game and the Reds sign off for the league season.
Carrick also considered the TV punditry route.
“I thought about it but, again, it's about opportunities. The more I've worked towards my coaching badges, the more I've been coaching and the closer I have come to the end, I have naturally started thinking mostly about the coaching side. I've just taken that pathway.”
“It's funny how things work out. It's quite laid-back at times, I just go with the flow. My career has been a little bit like that. I've never really forced it and chased things. I've been patient and I'll try to be the same as a coach.”
With that it was handshakes all round and the voice of reason headed off into the next chapter of his career. Good luck, Michael Carrick.