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Why is the Manchester United central midfielder dividing critics so? Goal.com looks at both sides of the argument

DEBATE

Just like Marmite and director Paul Thomas Anderson's latest offering 'The Master' before him, Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick divides critics.

There is no denying that the 31-year-old has an unassuming style and an extremely impressive pass-success rate, but does he not just top it up with simple five- or 10-yard passes?

Or is Carrick really the fulcrum of one of the most impressive attacks in Europe?

So, how can we get to the bottom of this? Goal.com looks at both sides of the argument.

FOR CARRICK

By Alex Young

The statistics do not lie. Carrick has the third-most touches of the ball during the current Premier League campaign thus far with 1696, behind only Mikel Arteta (1784) and Yaya Toure (1731).

The former Tottenham man is not the archetypal stern ball-played central midfielder, but he is United’s first-choice midfielder ahead of, among others, stalwarts Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and the emerging talent of Tom Cleverley for a reason.

Carrick is the unassuming heartbeat of a team overshadowing all in the Premier League with their attacking talent
Against Newcastle United, Carrick covered 6.83 miles – more than any other player on the pitch. Of the 93 passes played by the midfielder – a match-high – only six failed to reach their desired target.

There is a reason why Sir Alex Ferguson trusts Carrick so, with the player failing to start just one of the team’s previous 44 games in the Premier League, playing the full 90 minutes on 41 occasions.

One reason behind Carrick’s apparent high volume of uncertain critics could be his antithetical image to the Red Devils’ iconic midfield enforcer Roy Keane, Chelsea’s playmaker Frank Lampard or even Steven Gerrard’s box-to-box approach.

Carrick is a modern twist on the tried-and-tested techniques. We have come to expect a hardened, bustling midfielder who drives from the back into the opposition penalty area with tireless running and direct passing.

Not Carrick though. His passing could be classed as unimaginative, but it is effective - Carrick has played more forward passes than any other player in England’s top flight this term, with 525.

The 31-year-old is the unassuming heartbeat of a team overshadowing all in the Premier League with their attacking talent, keeping the side ticking over as they time and time again came from behind to build a seven-point lead at the top of the league at the season’s mid-way point.

Unfortunately, his unassuming approach has failed to garner him the praise his more stylish team-mates have received this season but, make no mistake, this fulcrum keeps the United engine chugging along.

AGAINST CARRICK

By Jamie Dunn

Michael Carrick has undoubtedly had a formidable influence on Manchester United’s season so far as the Old Trafford club top the Premier League table heading into 2013.

The once-forgotten England international took the plaudits for two very different but equally precise passes to provide for Robin van Persie and Chicharito as Manchester United came from behind to beat Newcastle 4-3 in a Boxing Day thriller.

The midfielder’s contribution in the attacking third has been exceptional, while his passing statistics speak for themselves in their consistency.

But it was Carrick who gave the ball away to Demba Ba in the fourth minute as Newcastle opened the scoring through James Perch.

And it was from a central position that the visitors started the move that saw a Danny Simpson shot deflected in off Jonny Evans as the Magpies moved back in front in the first half.

At this stage of last season – the fixture after Boxing Day – Sir Alex Ferguson’s side had conceded just 14 goals. This time around, the Premier League leaders have allowed twice as many already, while only the teams in the bottom three have shipped more at home.

And while that undoubtedly is due to some extent to an injury-forced selection headache in the centre of defence, as an almost ever-present in the midfield this season, Carrick must shoulder some of the responsibility for his side’s leaky tendencies.

Carrick, at 31 years old, has often been the most experienced head in a four-man midfield, partnering Tom Cleverley, a promising player who frequently occupies slightly more advanced positions.

Too often teams have found too much space between the lines against a traditionally mean side. At the Liberty Stadium, Swansea were regularly afforded the opportunity to break at pace unchallenged, but failed to punish the visitors and settled for a 1-1 draw.

All the while Van Persie – who appears a more and more invaluable summer signing by the game - is in scintillating form, Wayne Rooney continues to contribute and Chicharito is prolific when given an opportunity, defensive fragilities will largely fly under the radar.

But if the goals dry up, United will come under stern examination for the amount they are conceding, and Carrick will be expected to help stem the flow.

Carrick could do worse than learn from Paul Scholes. The veteran midfielder is notoriously late into the tackle, but even those fouls serve a purpose for his side.

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