2010 World Cup Player Profile: Michael Carrick, England's Back-Up Plan In Midfield

Why You’ll Like Him

When he’s on his day, Carrick is one of the most versatile central midfielders England has to offer.

He does all the little things that make a midfield run smoothly – he tracks back, intercepts passes, spreads the ball around neatly, and provides cover for the defense. He doesn’t often physically dominate opponents, but instead uses his exceptional positioning sense to snuff out any attacking threat. Carrick is great with both feet and a beautiful passer, so he can also play further up the field if need be. Not one to do the spectacular or dazzling, he quietly and effectively does his job in the team, even though the plaudits usually go elsewhere.

Why You’ll Hate Him

When he’s not on his day, he’s pretty much invisible.

As in, you’ll actually forget he’s on the field until he’s subbed off, at which point you’ll think, "Michael Carrick was playing?"

And while he hasn’t been entrenched in controversy like some of his England teammates, he did set his wedding on the same day that Gary Neville and Steven Gerrard had their ceremonies. Ok fine that was a reach, but John Terry and Ashley Cole are tough to keep up with.

Fact Sheet

Age: 28

Position: Central Midfielder

Club Teams: West Ham United (1998-2004), Leeds United (2004-2006), Manchester United (2006-present)

National Team Debut: May 25th, 2001 in a friendly against Mexico

Caps: 22

World Cup(s): 2006

Club World

Carrick started off his career at West Ham, graduating from the famed youth academy that also produced the likes of fellow England internationals Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, and Frank Lampard. In 2004 he moved across London to join Tottenham Hotspur, where he enjoyed two successful seasons under the management of Martin Jol. His impressive performances for Spurs attracted the interest of Manchester United, who shelled out £18.6 million for him in the summer of 2006.

In his first season in Manchester, Carrick formed an inspired midfield partnership with the rejuvenated Paul Scholes, and together they helped fire United to their first Premier League title in three years. Since then, the club has collected two more Premier League crowns, the Champions League title, two league cups, and the FIFA Club World Cup. Last season, Carrick suffered a dip in form and consistency and found first-team football tougher to come by. The emergence of Darren Fletcher in Manchester United’s midfield meant that Carrick spent more time on the bench than in previous seasons, and he never really solidified his place in the squad, leaving some to wonder if he’ll be moving on to a different club this summer.

National Team

Carrick made his senior debut for England during a friendly match against Mexico at the age of 19, but despite his early start as a full international, he has struggled to become a regular in the squad. With the competition of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Owen Hargreaves, and Gareth Barry, Carrick often finds himself at the back of the midfield pecking order. He has played just one World Cup match in his entire career, having started in England’s second round victory against Ecuador in 2006.

A lot of eyebrows were raised when Fabio Capello picked Carrick in his final 23-man squad for South Africa, but it is thought that the Italian chose him for his experience and versatility, two traits that are extremely valuable on the world’s biggest stage. Carrick will give Capello plenty of options should any of the starting midfielders get hurt, and seeing how players have been dropping like flies recently, having options is a necessity.

What To Look For

Gareth Barry’s fitness. If the Manchester City midfielder is healthy and available, Carrick will probably have to enjoy the World Cup from the sidelines. If Barry can’t recover from his ankle injury, then Carrick will likely be thrown into the team, and then we’ll see how well he can regain his form after a pretty inconsistent club season. And if he does get on the pitch, he’ll definitely have a point to prove. Never an England regular and struggling to remain one at Manchester United, Carrick will be out to show the world that he’s just as capable as England’s other midfield stars.

When Seena Vali isn’t lighting up his local Saturday pick-up game and doing outlandish goal celebrations, you can find him blogging about all things Premier League at World Soccer Reader.

For more World Cup coverage, visit the Dirty Tackle blog from our partners at Yahoo!

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