3 Key Power Shifts in Van Gaal's Army Series #3 of 3


#3 Unleashing Basti the Beast

Carrick has always kept things ticking along in the United midfield, that’s his shtick, a calling card he could pull out blindfolded. Once upon a time the former Spurs man operated in a high central midfield role, these days he takes up deeper positions, orchestrating and pulling the strings beyond the wall, cleverly intercepting balls sent in to cause frenzy to the United backline with the most efficient and economical movement, not to be interpreted as languid or lazy, mostly refined positional intelligence which comes with maturity.

Maturity in Carrick’s case is both a gift and a curse as the years have started to stack up against him. Carrick represents one of the very few survivors of Louis Van Gaal’s insurgency. The United boss has overseen an incredulous exodus of players since taking the reins from David Moyes. The most quoted statistic by pundits concerning United’s Michael Carrick is the red devils positive win percentage when Carrick starts in the first eleven. Sometimes stats can lead to wrong conclusions or convoluted reasoning, in this case except you been marooned on a distant island for several years, the influence Carrick has on the pulse rate of Manchester United football is unquestionable.

Carrick still an important squad member but the ageing midfielder has seen his time on the pitch reduced.

This does not mean Carrick is infallible or does not possess glaring physical weaknesses that could be exposed with certain strategy deployed. The long-time United servant is readily susceptible to ferocious high pressing teams and markers with pace. Both of these reared their head like a perfect storm of inquest quite notably during the away game at St. Mary’s, where the ghost tactics of Southampton’s ex-manager Mauricio Pochettino still lingers on. In particular, the speedy Senegalese and potential Van Gaal target, Sadio Mané, held sway as he tormented Carrick with rugged intensity with relentless pressing and tight marking. Whenever Mané got the ball he fleeted past Carrick like a hare would nonchalantly bypass a snail.

Manchester United is in the process of giving their resident metronome Carrick, known for his elegant ball movement and sagacious passing, a German upgrade – Bastian Schweinsteiger. The German World Cup winner has similar passing range to his English counterpart. However, Bastian is more mobile, even if not gifted with pace, as he tends to move around the pitch more and does not shun playing at the edges which is not that surprising since he was a winger and so comfortable playing from wide positions. He also gets up north-wise, higher up the pitch than Carrick likes to do so his passing influence registers from all segments of the field.