Michael Carrick is one of those players who is forever dividing opinion. Even those who watch him play on a weekly basis for Manchester United struggle to reach any sort of agreement.
The argument in support of Carrick is that he is the engine at the heart of the Manchester United midfield, assured in possession and keeps the play ticking over nicely.
The argument against Carrick is that he shies away in big games, that he rarely provides moments that change matches, and more often than not is seen passing the ball sideways and backwards.
Whatever your opinion may be on Carrick, he has quietly made his way back into the England frame, and is likely to play a part in tonight’s World Cup 2014 qualifier in Moldova. Carrick’s international career to date can at best be described as a stuttering one. Having made his debut in 2001, the Geordie had to wait four more years for a subsequent call up.
Whilst his great friend Joe Cole was signing up to the Chelsea revolution under Abramovich, Carrick stayed at a West Ham side relegated down to the Championship and as such he was overlooked for England and banished to the shadows.
Even since 2004 and his return to the Premier League with Tottenham, his appearances have been sporadic. 23 appearances for the Three Lions in 11 years doesn’t make for great reading as far as Carrick is concerned, nor too does the fact that he has still yet to register his first goal in an England shirt, with the exception of his time at Under 21 level. Of course, Carrick has been unfortunate in that he was born into a generation that included Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, so competition at the heart of the English midfield has always been tough.
Yet Michael Carrick will be the first person to openly admit that his England career hasn’t evolved as he would have hoped, so much so that he asked Hodgson not to consider him for Euro 2012 selection. After being restricted to nothing more than bench warming duties in South Africa two years earlier, this understandably wasn’t a situation that Carrick was prepared to put himself through again.
But at the age of 31, things may be finally about to change for Carrick. Less than six months after he hinted at the possibility of international retirement, he returned to the England fold and impressed during England’s friendly win over Italy last month. His composure in possession was precisely what England badly lacked during the Euros, and Roy Hodgson will have been left questioning if England could have prospered greater at the tournament had Carrick been in the squad.
The case of Michael Carrick is peculiar. He has won more Premier League trophies than Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard combined, not forgetting a Champions League winners medal, and he has received lavish praise from the likes of Xavi and Paul Scholes. Yet this is a player who has forever been overlooked in the England set up and whom continues to draw criticism amongst large sections of football fans for his inability to make a mark on games.
If Carrick can gain Roy’s trust, it will be a fantastic opportunity for him to win over some of his skeptics, and with the years starting to go against Carrick, this could well be his final opportunity to finally make his mark on the international scene for England.