Dearly beloved, I am honored to have been elected to deliver this eulogy for a man known to some, seen by few, and widely ignored by most. In fact, he is not dead. Nowhere near. In actuality, his career probably has several blissful and successful years left. Regardless, this man has decided to live a life of anonymity, of lurking in the shadows of giants. Can we fault him for avoiding the limelight? Shall we decry his patience for passivity, his methodical approach for a snail trail?
I speak, of course, of the living ghost that haunts the successful Manchester United midfield of the last few years. Michael Carrick.
In a league that values “pace” and “power,” where tangible highlights feed the lust for immediate gratification, Carrick has been overshadowed by English counterparts Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. Lacking the surging runs of Stevie G or the cannon shot of Frankie, Carrick’s passes often eschew vertical direction in favor of horizontal elongation. Playing side-by-side with Paul Scholes in the 2008 semifinal against Barcelona, the ginger’s series winning thunderstrike grabbed the headlines & Youtube hits. Carrick’s 180 minutes of interceptions, completed passes, and brilliant positional play flew under the radar.
Carrick is the hidden brain center of a corporate conglomerate – buried behind an endless web of subsidiaries and sole proprietorships, his teammates, he avoids detection. He’s the perfect white collar criminal, always appearing one step removed from a felony of a goal, yet oddly omnipresent.
Against Chelsea this season, he picked out Ryan Giggs with a laser-guided cross field pass. Before Chelsea could adjust, the Welshman took a brilliant first touch and setup Rooney for a goal. If goalscoring was a crime, Rooney would be a convicted felon and Giggs an accomplice. But Carrick? He’d step back and fade into the night, a whispering voice on a gust of wind.
Forwards, producers of tangible goals, grab the glory. This season, Rooney’s transfer request and online infidelity drew the spotlight. In the spring, Wazza’s wonder bicycle kick goal and return to form changed our focus from personal flaws to professional “redemption.” Nevertheless, nobody paid much attention to Carrick’s knee injury, surgery, or recovery. Can you blame them? Carrick does not command an audience, even if he subtly commands United’s seamless transition from defense to offense.
United’s new signing, young striker Chicharito, has drawn rave revues. Berbatov has also scored tons of goals. But who is the man behind the three-striker dragon at United? Who has the peace of mind to switch the fields to Valencia, slot a pass between opposing defenders from thirty yards out, or play happy feet with Vidic and Ferdinand? Not Anderson. At least not this season. Did Darren Fletcher’s derail United’s season? Or Scholes’ age? Nope. Carrick inconspicuously slots into the starting lineup….again…..and again……and again.
Why do we ignore him? Aside from being a ghastly ghoul, in the early stages of his United career, the fans fawned over his acclaimed shot. He teased us with the instant gratification lever of long-distance golazos. Yet usually playing in a 4-4-2, Carrick has learned to delegate offensive duties to dribbling wingers and trigger-happy forwards. But his pass to a teammate is not an abdication of responsibility, but rather a tool of empowerment – Carrick believes in you, Nani, even if nobody else does. Now go dribble at four defenders and try a forty yard shot.
Carrick gets derided for being inconsistent. In reality, he is consistently Michael Carrick and almost always plays like Michael Carrick. If you desire a midfielder that slides studs up or gets his knees dirty, look elsewhere. A tackler he is not. Rather, he uses his phantasmal presence to hide in plain daylight – he lurks before your very eyes, waiting to pounce on a poorly struck pass. One cannot separate Carrick’s work from his teammates. For that he deserves praise, not derision.
Basically, Michael Carrick is Keyser Soze. He appears to limp about the pitch, so the opposing team lets their guard down. It’s not until the back of the net ripples that they put two + two together. And by that time, it’s too late – he’s nowhere to be found.
Digital Image Impressions by my wickedly talented sister: Julia Blankenship. If you have a small business and are in need of some graphic design skills, or just want some affordable free lance work, check out her site.