by Ryan Lim

“Sideways.” “Backwards.” Or simply, “Shit” are the common words associated with Michael Carrick. Well, to most football fans anyway, even to a certain section of the United faithful, a rare breed of football fan that actually give the 31 year-old the credit he deserves, barely. It makes you wonder whether these ‘fans’ actually watch football at all.

The Wallsend-born midfielder, signed from Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2006 for a hefty price tag and handed the number 16 shirt, previously worn by recently departed captain Roy Keane, that in itself testament to what Sir Alex Ferguson saw in the 25 year-old.

Thrown straight into the first-team he was, taking the reigns from the man who led Manchester United to the famous treble of ’99. Baptism of fire indeed.

7 years, 4 Premier League titles, a League Cup triumph and last but not least a Champions League winners’ medal on, and shockingly, questions are still raised about the midfielder’s ability.

His technique undeniable, breaking up play and distributing it with pinpoint precision, beginning United’s advances at the business end of the pitch. Carrick’s performance at the Stadium of Light last weekend a prime example of the Tynesider’s importance to the league leaders, retaining possession well, providing a constant option for his teammates on the pitch, always keeping himself available. He was at the heart of every United attack, bringing the ball out of defence and distributing it incisively and effectively, registering a staggering 91 passes with an accuracy of 91%.

In that very game, which saw the Red Devils extend their lead at the summit to 18 points albeit temporarily, Michael Carrick was summed up in a brief instance of play – picking up the loose ball nicked off the feet of James McClean by substitute Tom Cleverley, the England international had his back turned to play, making a sublime first-time turn, evading the oncoming sliding challenge and into his stride, skipping past two challenges that followed with ease, spraying a 20 yard pass down the United right channel and the Reds were away. In a matter of seconds, Carrick had taken three Sunderland players out of the equation and set United away on the break – all this beginning from a Sunderland attack.

He was simply a step ahead.

Vision, technique, efficiency – Michael Carrick is without a shadow of doubt Manchester United’s best player.