United turned up with a crowd-pleasing performance at home against Stoke last night. Martial has stolen the headlines again, and rightly so, after another man-of-the-match performance, whilst Wayne continued his Roonaissance, Borthwick-Jackson had a strong game on his birthday, and, on a night where we remembered the Busby Babes, Jesse Lingard helped prove that United’s philosophy lives on.
But it was the supremely calming presence of Michael Carrick that felt, to me, like the most vital element for United. His selection, alongside Fellaini, seemed to raise many eyebrows when the teams were announced, with plenty of fans vocally suggesting Schneiderlin and Herrera would be more effective and dynamic pairing in the centre.
But for me, a fit Carrick, even at 34 years of age, should always have a place in the team, and he was clearly glad to be back.
Boys played well, good result.
Great to be back involved
The fans tho were 👌🏼 🙌🏼
I wanted to get in the mix again, I’ve got the bug 😂#MUFC
— Michael Carrick (@carras16) January 29, 2016
On reflection, you can see why LvG picked Fellaini to play with him in central midfield last night – he helped us deal with set pieces where players like Crouch and Arnautovic might otherwise have caused problems, and helped restrict Stoke’s time on the ball. Against different opposition, Carrick/Schneiderlin might be a better duo – they’re similar players in some ways, but, defensively, Schneiderlin relies more on energy and pressing, whereas Carrick relies more on positioning and his ability to read the game, and going forward, Carrick provides a range of passing we don’t get from anyone else in the team. It’s not hard to believe it’s not Scholes, but he’s the best we’ve got. When Schweinsteiger’s fit again, I really hope he doesn’t displace Carrick in the starting-11; as I’ve said before, I don’t think he’s done enough to justify that. For me, Carrick has always been underrated, and always will be, but I hope we make the most of him whilst he’s still able to exert such an influence on our play. As for who replaces him long-term, some people reckon Blind can eventually step into that role, but others aren’t sure. Either way, we really need to make sure we have a plan in that respect. Keep reading to see the Twitter reaction to Carrick’s role in last night’s refreshing win…
Said it time and time again. Carrick is the key. Whenever he comes back we start getting results #MUFC
— The United Stand (@UnitedStandMUFC) February 2, 2016
If Carrick is fit… He needs to play! Top top player
— Andrew Cole (@vancole9) February 2, 2016
Basically, #MUFC have been utter trash because Michael Carrick wasn’t on the pitch. That’s the only logical explanation, right?
— Tom Coast (@thcoast) February 2, 2016
Carrick certainly made a difference with United’s more progressive passing. Criminally underrated even in the winter of his career
— United Rant (@unitedrant) February 2, 2016
Michael Carrick vs Stoke:
Forward passes 
Ball recoveries 
Aerial duels [1/1]
— UnitedReview (@TheUtdReview) February 2, 2016
— The United Stand (@UnitedStandMUFC) February 3, 2016