Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 October 2014

Carrick welcomes competition

Michael Carrick, pictured, is pleased that Manchester United have added to their midfield ranks

Michael Carrick has welcomed Marouane Fellaini's arrival at Manchester United even though the clamour for midfield reinforcements followed his best season for the club.

Although the transfer window was something of a disaster for the Red Devils, when Carrick returns from international duty he will have increased competition for his starting spot.

As manager David Moyes has pointed out, Fellaini is capable of fulfilling a number of roles, including the deep-lying one Carrick tends to carry out.

But the 31-year-old is not bothered by the Belgian's impending arrival.

As far as he is concerned, the more talent Moyes has at his disposal, the better.

"It's something I welcome," said Carrick.

"The more top quality players you have in your squad, whether it's in my position or not, the better it is for the team.

"It's not a case of me thinking 'I might not be in the team', I will still have to play well to be in it regardless."

Carrick could be forgiven an element of frustration.

After all, though it was in his usual understated way, Carrick's acceptance last term was his best campaign was merely confirming a widespread opinion that got him on the shortlist for the Professional Footballers' Association's Player of the Year award.

"I wasn't annoyed by it because I've had it for so long anyway," he said.

"It's a constant discussion from one game to the next.

"You are either the answer or you are not good enough. It's something you learn to deal with. It's part of the business."

Some opinions are more important than others.

Much of the reason Carrick only has 29 caps to his name is due to Fabio Capello not being entirely convinced about his qualities as a tidy ball-playing midfielder.

Indeed, it was Capello's decision to barely acknowledge the Geordie's existence during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa that led to Carrick taking time out from the international scene, a decision he only reversed 12 months ago.

"You make decisions because you think they are the right ones at the time," he said.

"I didn't come back expecting to start. I just something wanted to give it a crack."

Although Carrick has Steven Gerrard, Jack Wilshere and Frank Lampard as his most obvious competition for a starting berth, it was a smart move by Hodgson to bring him back into the fold.

For, as good as those three players are, none have the ability to retain possession as consistently as Carrick can.

"I can't deny last season probably was my best one," he said.

"My form was good and I was consistent.

"But it wasn't like I suddenly jumped from one level to the next. I didn't do anything differently to what I had done in the years before."

Public opinion decided otherwise.

In an era where social media offers more avenues for opinion to be expressed, Carrick feels it is more important than ever not to get swept along by a tide.

"It can be difficult because the range of opinions can be quite extreme," he said.

"I've always said you are never as good as you think you've played and not as bad either.

"You have to take a balanced view otherwise it's a roller coaster.

"When things are going well the ups are so high, it's the best feeling in the world. But all of a sudden, after a few bad results, it can be the worst thing.

"I prefer to judge it by talking to people close to me and picking the brains of the coaches.

"I certainly don't watch whole games. I know instantly how it's going. I prefer to judge it like that."

Carrick's chances of starting Friday's World Cup qualifier with Moldova depend upon how many changes Hodgson is intending to make for the crucial trip to Ukraine on September 10, plus how he will reshape his attack following the withdrawal of Wayne Rooney and the almost certain absence of Daniel Sturridge with a groin injury.

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