Michael Carrick: most valuable jewel in England’s crown?
As Manchester United anchorman Michael Carrick settles into the England camp once more, all the excitement understandably surrounds young-guns like Spurs’ Harry Kane and Ryan Mason.
However, Three Lions fans should also be looking forward to finally seeing just what Carrick can offer in international colours.
At his best, the understated but intelligent West Ham United academy product is incredibly influential dictating from deep, and Carrick’s unique set of attributes could prove invaluable to England, if Roy Hodgson persists with his successful diamond system.
A natural fit for the base in that formation, Carrick’s creative range of passing and willingness to orchestrate attacks are only surpassed by his talent for shielding and organising the defence.
The 33-year-old has a mixed record for his nation, however, often failing to transfer club form to country. This inconsistency is, in part, due to what may be nicknamed ‘Paul Scholes syndrome’, where quiet man Carrick’s calming presence and subtle work were often overlooked in favour of flashier counterparts.
Now, with Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, who were regularly shoehorned into the side come what may, having finally hung up their international boots, the time is right for Carrick to stake his claim to a starting spot.
After the composed conductor’s exclusion from Roy Hodgson’s squad for Brazil 2014, following a sub-par season for Man Utd, the writing seemed to be on the wall for Carrick’s England career.
However, a return to form under Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford, where the Englishman has led the Red Devils’ resurgence, has forced Hodgson to recall his forgotten man.
Having missed out on the Three Lions final cut due to injury earlier this season, Carrick appears to be chomping at the bit to be involved this time out. Speaking recently, the Man Utd maestro said:
“It was very frustrating last time to sit out those two games but that’s something you’ve got to deal with. I’m enjoying my football and it’s great to be back.
“It helps your general happiness. When things are going well you just want to get out and play football. That’s the way I feel at the moment,” added the former Spurs star.
With England (12/1 with Coral to win Euro 2016) ushering in a new era, though, is there really room for Carrick long-term?
At 33, most players would be considering focusing on their club careers, but Carrick still has much left undone in an England shirt. Comparisons to Italy pass-master Andrea Pirlo may seem outlandish, but the 31-capped Lion’s return could act as a similar catalyst for his nation.
When asked whether he hoped to be involved at Euro 2016, Carrick stated: “That’s definitely what I’m striving towards. I’d love to have another real crack at it. Trying to have a bigger influence in the team is the target.”
With a dearth in leadership and experience after Lampard, Gerrard and John Terry’s international retirements, Carrick could, and should, find a spot on the plane to France.
The Midfield dictator brings a quiet authority to the game and, with his timeless skillset and technique, could go on to play at the highest level for some years yet.
If Hodgson surrounds and complements Carrick with the tenacity, engine and exuberance of players like Jordan Henderson, England (odds-on at 1/8 to defeat Lithuania) could finally have a balanced midfield to compete against the best.