Michael Carrick's positive influence on Man United is bearing fruit
His return to midfield has seen a trio begin to gel at the heart of midfield17:48 Monday 19 December 2016, 17:48 19 Dec 2016
For a player in the mould of Michael Carrick, age is only ever going to be a number.
The cerebral Manchester United midfielder was never about pace but built his game around a good range of passing long and short as well as efficiency on the ball - although he could occasionally be got at when pressed effectively.
At 35, the former West Ham and Tottenham midfielder is very much in the winter of his career but it's clear that he can still contribute plenty to Man United cause.
On a purely statistical point of view, United do better when he is in the team than when the midfielder is absent.
He has appeared in seven Premier League matches under Jose Mourinho, in which time, Carrick has been involved in wins five times and drawn twice. One of those wins only saw him on the pitch for 13 minutes but the overall trend is an absence of defeats this season when Man United have Carrick's control and cool head at the heart of midfield.
When he has been injured or not selected this season, United have won three times, drawn four times and lost three times.
And it's not necessarily the case that he has been fielded in easier games on paper as he was involved for the full 90 minutes against both Arsenal and Tottenham.
He did miss the games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea however.
But beyond simple team stats, he is the type of foil that can take the pressure off Paul Pogba when it comes to setting the tempo in motion.
The Frenchman has not shown that he is a conductor during his career thus far and benefited from having Andrea Pirlo doing the playmaking at Juventus while Pogba took on a more box to box role that allowed him to drift more.
Arturo Vidal's energy and tenacity helped that duo at Juve and Ander Herrera is fulfilling a similarly busy role in midfield for United at present as they begin to pick up results.
The Herrera-Pogba-Carrick connection is a trio that compliment each other well stylistically in terms of balance.
It's visible in the Squawka pass completion rates at the club this season with Carrick leading the way among that trio with 89% (essentially only misplacing one of his 10 passes) which is higher than Herrera (87%) and Pogba (85%).
As the older experienced Carrick however, who provides the platform as the deepest player that forms the first cog and finding a successor to him long-term will be a key challenge for Mourinho.
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