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Manchester United 2016-17 Player Report Cards: Michael Carrick

Michael Carrick: Mourinho’s late game fire blanket

Manchester United v RSC Anderlecht - UEFA Europa League Quarter Final: Second Leg Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

You remember the Michael Carrick Argument? Oh, those were happy days. One side, the Carrick Supremacy, were certain that he was the English Xavi, the only man from these islands who could pass like a Spaniard, and the rightful heir to any midfield that he fancied controlling. The other side -- the Carrick Identity? -- were convinced that he was a ponderous space-filler, rated only by poseurs, who dragged down the tempo and vigour of any team unlucky enough to find themselves forced to pick him.

The onwards march of time has consumed both thesis and antithesis, leaving us with a new riddle: the Carrick Ultimatum. Which runs roughly as follows: Michael Carrick, at the age of 35, is slower than he has ever been (and he was never quick), is apparently unable to play two games a week, and as such can't really be considered anything more than a squad player. Yet he is still the slickest short passer in United's midfield, and generally makes everybody else around him look better. So what to do?

Middlesbrough v Manchester United - Premier League
Pointing. The kind of important contribution that doesn’t show up on the stat sheets.
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Mourinho's tried a few approaches through the season, and appears to have settled on, but towards the latter stages has settled upon using Carrick as a kind of late game fire blanket, brought on to damp things down in midfield. And Carrick, to his credit, has performed about as well as might be expected whenever called upon. Certainly, the squad is better for his presence, and that amounts to a job well done.

Which leaves us pondering the Carrick Legacy: how the hell, in all the frantic spending of the last few seasons, have United managed not to buy somebody else who can do his job?

José Mourinho approval rating: A carriage clock, a card full of best wishes, and a place on the coach-- wait, what? A new contract? Oh. Oh right.