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Michael Carrick viewed as a future Manchester United manager despite ending 15-year spell

·7-min read
Michael Carrick viewed as a future Manchester United manager despite ending 15-year spell - GETTY IMAGES
Michael Carrick viewed as a future Manchester United manager despite ending 15-year spell - GETTY IMAGES

Michael Carrick has been viewed as a future Manchester United manager at Old Trafford following his unbeaten spell as caretaker which ended after the victory over Arsenal on Thursday.

Carrick, 40, announced his departure after the final whistle of the third match in charge, bringing an end to his 15-year spell at the club as a five-time Premier League winner as a player and a coach.

He admitted earlier this week that he was split over whether he will pursue management after coaching under Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Should he continue with coaching, he could come into the frame further down line, such is how highly regarded he is at United.

Following Solskjaer’s dismissal, he oversaw the Champions League victory over Villarreal, a draw at title-chasing Chelsea and the thrilling 3-2 victory over Arsenal, which was watched by newly appointed interim manager Ralf Rangnick.

“It certainly hasn’t put me off, no,” said Carrick ahead of the Manchester United game. “But at the same point I’m not suddenly desperate to become a manager.

“I’m realistic and the experience has definitely helped me from the lows and the sadness of Ole leaving, to having to adapt and getting through the games. It has been a challenge but one I’ve enjoyed. You’re never certain of what roles you might be good at or not good at. That is life experience. You have to go through it to learn from it.”

Among the players of Carrick’s era, Frank Lampard started at Derby County before getting appointed at Chelsea, while Steven Gerrard has landed the Aston Villa job after a spell at Rangers.

Carrick revealed in interviews after the Arsenal win that “loyalty to Ole is a little bit of a factor” and that he also wanted to spend time with his family after going straight into coaching after retiring as a player.

He informed United’s first-team staff of his decision at lunchtime on Thursday but waited until after the game to tell the players as he did not want any distractions ahead of the Arsenal game.

Earlier in the week his brother, Graham, posted on social-media: “Couldn’t be more proud. Sometimes you find yourself in difficult circumstances & within all the noise you’ve just got to step up, be composed, meet it head on & fulfil your duties with the best intentions. A challenging couple of weeks handled very well - a class act.”

Solskjaer had lost seven of his final 13 matches in charge when Carrick was placed in temporary charge while United searched for an interim manager and oversaw a 2-0 win over Villarreal in the Champions League that secured their place in the knockout stages with a game to spare before drawing 1-1 at Chelsea last Sunday. Carrick said he would use the break to fulfil a promise to his son Jacey to watch a United away game together as fans.

“My time at this great club will always rank as the best years of my career,” said Michael Carrick. “When I first signed over 15 years ago, I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined winning so many trophies and I will certainly never forget the fantastic memories both as a player and as a member of the coaching team.

“However, after a lot of thought and deliberation, I have decided that now is the right time for me to leave the club. I want to place on record my thanks to all of the players and a special mention goes to the backroom staff, working long hours with such a great group of people has been a real pleasure and I have made some long-lasting friendships.

“I am, and will always be, a Manchester United fan and will come to as many matches as possible. I would like to wish Ralf, the staff, the players and the fans all the best for the future and I look forward to being in the stands and supporting the boys as a fan.”

John Murtough, United’s football director, paid tribute to Carrick’s contribution to the club: “Michael leaves with the sincerest thanks and best wishes of everyone at Manchester United after 15 years of exceptional service to the club as a player and as a coach. While we are sad to see him go, we respect and understand Michael’s decision,” he said.

“He will always be known as one of the finest midfielders in the history of Manchester United, and, more recently, as an excellent coach who has worked tirelessly under two managers to help develop the strong squad which Ralf will now take charge of.

“We are grateful for the steady leadership Michael has shown through this period of managerial transition, and, while he is now stepping away from day-to-day involvement, he will always be welcome back as a legend of the club.”

Manchester United may have bet their chips on the wrong interim manager

By Jim White

Judged by the brutal norms of modern football, Michael Carrick’s resignation should never have been required. If Manchester United’s board displayed any hint of proper rationale, he would have been let go by the club at the same time as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The Norwegian liked to manage by committee. In which case, the entire committee was as culpable for the muddled performances that had afflicted the side. Indeed the fact Carrick recognised this and decided to walk away once he had done his duty steadying the ship, when even the new interim manager Ralf Rangnick had asked him to stay on, is evidence he has a much clearer view of what is required to manage the club than anyone in the boardroom.

Carrick accepted personal responsibility in a manner which suggests, as was evident in his brief time in charge, that he has a real understanding of the requirements of the job. Once given command, he managed to reorganise a team that had, in the latter days of Solskjaer’s time, looked the very definition of disorganised. Sure, as was clear in the first half of Thursday’s game with Arsenal, there were still moments of comedy defending under his watch. But he quickly found a way to adjust. Plus he made big calls by dropping established players - both Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes were benched during his three match tenure. And the fact neither sulked, but happily delivered when recalled, shows he enjoyed considerable dressing room respect. Unlike Solskjaer, he even managed to come up with a system that allowed Jadon Sancho to play in his proper position on the right side of the attack (and the winger responded with two vital goals). More to the point, exuding calm on the touchline, he looked in control.

Which begs the significant question: is Carrick a future Manchester United manager? Three games are clearly too few to judge. And, given the recent experience of what happened when a former playing hero was thus elevated, the reluctance of the policy makers at Old Trafford to try such an idea again, preferring to bring in the hugely experienced Rangnick as stand-in, might be understandable. But Carrick did himself no harm leaving with an unbeaten record in charge (as some wag tweeted, he recorded the best win ratio of any United manager in history).

More to the point, he has significant advantages. Not least the fact that, unlike the Norwegian, he has considerable knowledge not just of United in the ascendant, but in decline. Sure, he won Champions League and Premier League medals with the club. But anyone who was at the heart of the enterprise in the years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired would be disinclined to reference the glories of the past with the frequency Solskjaer did. He has been there on the inside - first as player, then as coach - as a variety of managers have struggled with the legacy, taking mental notes of every stumbling misstep. It is a hugely important learning curve.

Long before he can be considered as a potential future United boss, however, clearly he needs wider experience. The days since Matt Busby was given the job despite not having previously managed anywhere else are long gone. Like his former England colleague Steven Gerrard, he has to learn the trade before returning to the club he loves. What his three-match stand-in role suggested is that he has the potential. No more than that. Only time will tell if he can realise it.

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