When Michael Carrick limped off last Sunday, it seemed, momentarily at least, as if Manchester City might have a way back into the game.
His absence forced Wayne Rooney into midfield and allowed the visitors to score a late consolation. Fortunately for Manchester United supporters, their team had already built a comfortable lead and taken the fight out of their opponents.
But why did an assured and confident United display suddenly look a little shaky once Carrick came off?
Since his return from injury, the midfielder has played in each of United’s last five Premier League games and Louis van Gaal’s side have won them all.
Is he actually so integral to United’s recent surge? Will they miss his presence in this weekend’s crucial clash against Chelsea?
We took a look at his statistics from those last five games in order to find out.
When people talk about Carrick, they often start by praising his passing and how he keeps a team ‘ticking over’ with simple build-up play. As one columnist put it this week, it’s often as if he is “playing in a dinner jacket”.
It cannot be denied that Carrick completes a lot of passes. He’s found a red shirt 89 per cent of the time since returning from injury and regularly finds himself at the top of the pass completion charts come the final whistle.
68.6 per cent of his passes over the last five games have been sent forward. That is marginally more than Cesc Fàbregas, a player many rate as one of this season’s best performers and who Carrick could have come up against this weekend.
This is where the statistics don’t shine a kind light on Carrick. He has won only one of his five attempted tackles and, despite making a decent 11 interceptions, he should be looking to improve the defensive side of his game.
Although he received plenty of plaudits after the derby win, he was clearly at fault for David Silva’s opening goal as he failed to track the Spaniard’s run.
He has never been known as a prolific, reliable or even occasional scorer of goals, with a total of 17 during his nine years at Old Trafford, but Carrick’s shooting record over the last five matches is surprisingly good. He has made three attempts on goal, all of which have been on target, and scored one against his old club Tottenham.
Overall, Carrick has been present in 13 of United’s 19 league victories this season, 3 of their 8 draws and 2 of their 5 defeats. Although his contributions can be exaggerated and his flaws are sometimes glossed over, he has proven that he fits into Van Gaal’s system, offering a steady and controlled presence on which devastating attacks can be built.
With no direct replacement in the squad, it seems like his teammates will miss him at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Featured photo: Gordon Flood (Flickr)