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UNITEDRANT

Carrick successor should be United’s priority in January window

December 2, 2016 Tags: Opinion 22 comments
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It has been a season of inconsistency, a fact highlighted by José Mourinho’s indecision when it comes to his starting team. Case in point, Mourinho has named the same line up in consecutive matches just once this season, at home to Southampton followed by the trip to Hull City. While injuries can disrupt team selection, Manchester United lies 15th on the ‘injury league table’ this season. In truth, it is far more likely reason that constant tinkering is the result of Mourinho not knowing his best side. But one point of consistent excellence this season has been Michael Carrick.

The Geordie has played nine games, with the Reds winning eight. While just two of the nine were in the Premier League, against Swansea City and Arsenal, Carrick offers the team a cohesive balance few can match. Carrick’s best work is done in defensive areas, just in front of his central defenders, where he effectively cuts off passing lanes to opposition strikers, while recycling possession without call on his teammates to track back.

Mourinho is a fan, acknowledging the player’s traits in November with the confession that “he is such a fantastic player and it is a pity, I always loved him, but instead of being his manager when he was 25 I am his manager when he is 35.”

Indeed, Carrick’s age is a problem. The risk of injury increases, while even if United offers Carrick a further year, as Mourinho has indicated, the sun is setting on the player’s Old Trafford career. The need for a deputy becomes more urgent as Carrick edges towards the exit. It should be a priority, even as soon as January.

"He is such a fantastic player and it is a pity, I always loved him, but instead of being his manager when he was 25 I am his manager when he is 35."José Mourinho

The Reds already boast some of the finest attacking talents in world football, even if goals have sometimes been hard to come by in the Premier League. Antione Griezmann’s apparent ‘come and get me’ plea and ongoing rumours of a bid for Dimitri Payet are flattering, but it is hard to justify United shelling out more money for that calibre of player where there are more urgent priorities.

It is in defensive areas that United cannot boast of as many riches. Chris Smalling’s poor form is a concern, while Mourinho’s reliance on Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo is distressing for many supporters, even if the pair has performed well in the past month. Each surprised with strong performances against Arsenal, Swansea and West Ham United. It is a partnership that will continue, with Eric Bailly on the sidelines alongside Smalling. Yet, Mourinho also enjoys a wealth of young talent at the heart of defence, including Axel Tuanzebe and Timothy Fosu-Mensah.


Michael Carrick, Daley Blind


It leaves reinforcement in midfield as the most acute need coming into the winter window. There is no surplus of proven holding midfielders. Marouane Fellaini has been tried in a defensive role by Mourinho, Louis van Gaal and David Moyes. It has never worked. As the campaign has worn on Mourinho has discovered, as did he predecessors, that the lumbering Belgian does not have the brain nor technical attributes to fill Carrick’s shoes. Meanwhile, Ander Herrera has put in some very competent performances as a midfielder anchor, but will always be more comfortable in a box-to-box role, where his industrious running comes to the fore.

Then there is Daley Blind, who has been championed as a possible Carrick successor on these pages, but with Luke Shaw’s injury, fitness and consistency problems, United already looks vulnerable in the left-back area. The Dutchman has probably been at his best when playing on the left, which cannot be said of Matteo Darmian or Rojo.

Meanwhile, Moran Schneiderlin’s £29.75 million move to Old Trafford under Van Gaal has not been as successful as all parties hoped. Mourinho has so little faith in the Frenchman that he was forced to swallow some humble pie and recall Bastian Schweinsteiger from his exile in the under-23s. That in itself is a damning indictment of Schneiderlin’s future.

In these circumstances, it would not be surprising if United attempted to bring in reinforcements in January. Europe’s biggest clubs are unlikely to sell their prized assets in the middle of the campaign, but shock signings do happen. Good ones too. After all, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra moved in the winter of 2006. It is an observation that points to big names coming next summer and not in the winter, leaving the mooted acquisitions of Marco Verratti or Casemiro extremely unlikely next month. Less mainstream options are possible though, including William Carvalho, Fabinho and Grzegorz Krychowiak.


Grzegorz Krychowiak


Carvalho has previously been the subject of media speculation when it comes to United, as well as a whole host of Premier League clubs. The 24-year-old’s defensive attributes are well noted and, like Carrick, his preferred role is at the base of midfield. While Carvalho’s passing does not have Carrick’s range, he is more than competent at recycling possession and launching counter-attacks. The Sporting prodigy is tied in to an expensive contract though, meaning that United would have to shell out yet more millions to acquire the Portugal international.

Monaco’s Fabinho has been mentioned as a potential signing at right-back, but the Brazilian has excelled in a central midfield role this season. With five goals in 20 appearances, Fabinho is proving to be a more complete footballer than previously understood. One that can defend and attack naturally. His best asset, however, is concentration. Like Carrick, Fabinho has good positional awareness and rarely leaves his defence unguarded.

Finally, Paris Saint Germain midfielder Krychowiak could also be available. Having moved from Sevilla to PSG with his coach, Unai Emery, the no-nonsense Polish player has struggled to find consistent first team action. Krychowiak has made some inroads into the starting team, but cameos have been brief and sporadic, while he essentially remains Thiago Motta’s understudy. Krychowiak will compete with Motta, Verratti, Blaise Matuidi and Adrien Rabiot for a spot in the PSG team, meaning the Pole may be open to a move already –  if United is willing to stump up the cash to rehome the bullish midfielder.

The situation is not desperate. It is no coincidence that United’s best performances this season have come when Carrick has held down a role as the Reds’ anchor midfielder. He offers balance and composure and in Carrick’s absence United vulnerable and less coherent. Yet, while there is no Carrick carbon copy out there, good succession planning demands that United dig deep into the club’s bank account once again. It makes a lot of sense to do it in January.

Sources: transfermarkt.co.uk, physioroom.com

22 comments

Dave Skelly - December 2, 2016 Reply

@UtdThought Blind?

Dave - December 2, 2016 Reply

Blind? I know he’s not Carrick now but Carrick wasn’t the player he is now 8 years ago.

Harald Oswin - December 2, 2016 Reply

We have Schneiderlin, TFM, Fellaini, Herrera, Pogba, Schweinsteiger and Carrick himself gunning for the two midfield pivots. There is enough in the engine room to get us by till the end of the season. The most exigent vacancy is central defence. I have no faith in the current lot except Bailly and Valencia. If we can bring in Lindelof or Van Dijk that would be immense.

Denton Davey - December 2, 2016 Reply

I’ve written several times about the obvious choice – Daley Blind.

Sure, he’s slow but Andrea Pirlo was no sprinter. Sure, he’s short but Andrea Pirlo is about four/five inches shorter (10/12 cm, if you want a metric measurement).

And how fast/tall was Xavi ?

How fast/tall is Iniesta ?

How fast/tall is Modric ?

So, it seems to me that paying attention to the deficits in Blind’s tool-kit – not very fast, not very strong – get inordinate attention while his positive attributes get short-shrift.

What are these “positive attributes” – he’s an excellent passer, confident on the ball, unhurried, sees the pitch from a defender’s point-of-view and did I mention that he’s “unhurried” and an excellent passer of the ball who has excellent one-touch abilities.

In a sense, it’s been something of a pity that the injuries to Smalling, Bailly, and Shaw have meant that Blind has been needed to shore up the defence. But, like the legendary LittleDutchBoy, Daley Blind has answered the call and got stuck-in to prevent the defensive wall from breaking. Hopefully, when Bailly, Smalling, and Shaw can get back to match-fitness and game-sharpness there will be less need to call upon Daley Blind to make up the back line and then, maybe, he can get a run of games in “TheCarrickRole”. I’m confident that he would do a great job if (it’s always “if”, isn’t it ?) Jo$e agrees with this assessment.

Denton Davey - December 2, 2016 Reply

Virgil Van Dijk would be a good addition; not sure about Lindelof – actually, before Zlatan bigged him up, I’d never heard of him !

Marco - December 2, 2016 Reply

If Jones can keep up his recent run of form, we may have the solution already to hand. To be fair, the much-maligned Rojo has played well when called upon. He put in some very good tackles against West Ham and I’d prefer him in central defence to Blind, even though he’s done a great job as a stop-gap.

As for Carrick’s successor, Blind deserves a chance to claim that spot. I had thought Schneiderlin was bought for that purpose but he’s been in and out of favour for over a season now and may well move on come summer.

Denton Davey - December 2, 2016 Reply

I’ve written several times about the obvious choice – Daley Blind.

Sure, he’s slow but Andrea Pirlo was no sprinter. Sure, he’s short but Andrea Pirlo is about four/five inches shorter (10/12 cm, if you want a metric measurement).

And how fast/tall was Xavi ?

How fast/tall is Iniesta ?

How fast/tall is Modric ?

So, it seems to me that paying attention to the deficits in Blind’s tool-kit – not very fast, not very strong – get inordinate attention while his positive attributes get short-shrift.

What are these “positive attributes” – he’s an excellent passer, confident on the ball, unhurried, sees the pitch from a defender’s point-of-view and did I mention that he’s “unhurried” and an excellent passer of the ball who has excellent one-touch abilities.

In a sense, it’s been something of a pity that the injuries to Smalling, Bailly, and Shaw have meant that Blind has been needed to shore up the defence. But, like the legendary LittleDutchBoy, Daley Blind has answered the call and got stuck-in to prevent the defensive wall from breaking. Hopefully, when Bailly, Smalling, and Shaw can get back to match-fitness and game-sharpness there will be less need to call upon Daley Blind to make up the back line and then, maybe, he can get a run of games in “TheCarrickRole”. I’m confident that he would do a great job if (it’s always “if”, isn’t it ?) Jo$e agrees with this assessment.

bobbynoble - December 3, 2016 Reply

Pick me! I’m reckon I can be as fast as Modric, Iniesta and Xavi, and I’m definitely taller.

Denton Davey - December 2, 2016 Reply

The duplicate comment was not a mistake – it was “my emphasis” !

subterranean steve - December 3, 2016 Reply

No need to get repetitive, Denton.

It’s not as if we are blind to your daily rant.

bobbynoble - December 3, 2016 Reply

daily blind. ha ha

Dean - December 2, 2016 Reply

we have him… @BSchweinsteiger

Junaid - December 3, 2016 Reply

I think Julian Weigl of Borussia Dortmund would be perfect. He’s very similar to Carrick and has a great range of passing. It should be easier to do a deal for him than with the other names mentioned and he’s a young player, can see him staying with us for a long time if we do sign him

NazManUnited - December 3, 2016 Reply

Panic buys for cover will add to our misfit list. Better to manage Carrick 1GPW & use Herrera or Schweinsteiger

NazManUnited - December 3, 2016 Reply

Schweinsteiger can lose 1 stone & trim down, he’d do it if he new he’d be picked

NazManUnited - December 3, 2016 Reply

Schneiderlin was good at the Saints, Mourinho should give him a chance in his preferred position, it’s a long season

NazManUnited - December 3, 2016 Reply

This will blow everyone’s mind, I’m not mad? Valencia to play central, his football brains improving & he’s fast

Simba - December 3, 2016 Reply

Lol yeah, that would blow minds. He did that once for Louis didn’t be, albeit at the right in a diamond. I thought he did alright.

Simba - December 3, 2016 Reply

I dunno mate…

1) You just don’t get that type of player in Jan
2) Even if you did, how long did it take Evra and Vidic to settle?
3) As mentioned earlier, Even Carrick himself wasn’t fit for the Carrick role not too long ago.

IMHO, our best route to such a player is to either groom Herrera or Blind into it, or extend a lifeline to Basti or Schneiderlein

Bonehead - December 4, 2016 Reply

The link to the left back position is a secure one.

I would like to see Borthwick-Jackson put some real pressure on Shaw for the left back slot when he returns from being on loan. Personally I think Young has more of the attributes a modern full back (pace, engine and attacking threat) than Shaw at the moment. Shaw needs to knuckle down.

Providing he does, Blind is the ready made replacement for Carrick. In the meantime we have one of the best holding midfielders of his generation, Bastian Schweinsteiger, to assist the transition. Schneiderlin can play at 6 and 8 so he is a useful asset too. Fellaini should be nowhere near this situation.

Dazza2501 - December 12, 2016 Reply

Kevin Strootman comes to mind if the cheque book is used.He is a very good player, has leadership qualities & that bit of nastiness/niggle that you sometimes need. I also hope that he tries Fou- Mensah in the holding midfield role. With his athleticism & strength he’d break up a lot of attacks. While he lacks Carricks passing range, he could certainly do a job, whilst building up his exposure to first team football. The only way to see would be to try him.

Lewis - January 1, 2017 Reply

Come on, none of these suggestions (Blind, Schweinsteiger, etc.) are a medium to long term replacement for Carrick. We need to think big. A world-class midfielder, age circa 26. Not making do with second best.
But that’s not our priority right now.
Not is another defender. Jones & Rojo have surprisingly coped admirably with injuries to Bailly & Smalling. But Bailly is back now and Smalling’s form will return when he gets a chance to have a run in the team.
Again there are medium to long term frailties in our defensive squad, which would be shown up in, say, the Champions League.
But if Mourinho is only able/allowed to bring one player in in the January window, it should be Antoine Griezmann. How many chances have we missed this season that Griezmann would have put away because of his pace, that extra yard? Ibra is pedestrian and gives the ball away too often. In his ageing years Ibra needs a strike partner of the quality of Griezmann. Can you imagine how many goals we’d score with those two up front? No defence needed (haha)!
With Griezmann and the points dropped against Burnley, Stoke, Arsenal, Watford, Everton, we’d be second in the league right now.
Griezmann is the key to Champions League qualification and we can strengthen the midfield and defence in the summer.

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