Barely anyone has avoided criticism at Manchester United since they last lifted the Premier League trophy in 2013; the players, the board, the owners, managers, backroom staff - the list is endless.
And as United struggled at the end of Jose Mourinho’s reign - and after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was given the job on a permanent basis - questions were raised over the quality of the club’s coaching staff.
The departure of Mourinho’s right-hand man Rui Faria led to the promotion of Kieran McKenna and Michael Carrick on the first-team bench and Solskjaer stuck with the duo, in addition to bringing Sir Alex Ferguson assistant Mike Phelan back.
However, stories appeared back in the autumn - around the time United were on a dismal run of form and had just lost away to West Ham - suggesting that some players were expressing concerns in private about the standard of training sessions.
Those were refuted strongly by Solskjaer, who has been unwavering in his support of McKenna and Carrick, his former team-mate.
Carrick was preparing for his transition into coaching long before he hung up his boots in the summer of 2018; he started on his badges before he turned 30 and had already shown his leadership qualities during his playing days.
The midfielder was club captain and, while game time was limited in his final season, the impact he had in the dressing room wasn’t. He was already showing he had the mettle to become a strong coach.
With United 2-0 down at the Etihad Stadium in April 2018 everything was set in place for Manchester City to be crowned champions that day in what would have been a grim afternoon for the travelling supporters. But, a rousing speech from Carrick put an end to that.
The midfielder presented an impassioned speech to his team-mates at half time and a piece of tactical advice to Paul Pogba that would lead to two goals from the Frenchman in 97 seconds which changed the game. Then Chris Smalling’s winner put City’s title celebrations on ice.
Carrick is a modest man. He would play down any suggestion that he was the key behind that win, especially after not making the matchday squad for the fixture, but he’s been an important part of the dressing room for years.
He and McKenna, who has also come in for a fair share of criticism in his short time in the first-team coaching set-up, have a strong bond. They lead training sessions at the club’s Carrington base under the watchful eye of Solskjaer. And, amidst the criticism, the Norwegian has publicly backed his young coaching staff.
“The coaching here and the teaching has been exceptional, incredible. The coaches have opened my eyes since the last time I was here," Solskjaer said in October 2019 in response to criticism of his backroom staff.
The attention to detail from both Carrick and McKenna has led to their progression. At first the former England midfielder leaned on his colleague, who had success with United’s Under-18s before his promotion under Mourinho, with the Northern Irishman sharing his coaching expertise with Carrick.
Meticulous planning, analysis and preparation have all helped Carrick improve as a coach and his dedication and determination are seeing the first team reap rewards. The 37-year-old will stay after training sessions with players wanting to focus on individual aspects of their game, pushing them to succeed. Whether that be finishing, possession-based practice or improving passing, he is able to use his wealth of experience from his playing days to help the current crop.
Scott McTominay has already benefited from working alongside the Champions League winner and another key beneficiary during the current campaign has been Fred. The Brazilian struggled to adapt in his first season in England under Mourinho but Carrick’s patience and experience has helped the midfielder and he’s been a different player for United this season.
“He has helped me a lot in this process of adaptation and transition,” Fred told Trivela about Carrick’s impact on him.
"He’s a guy who was an idol at the club and was a great player in the same position that I play.
"On a daily basis, he helps me a lot, always talking to me."
Carrick was underrated during his playing days and it’s quite possible the same can be said for his early coaching career. That won’t bother him though, as the commitment and backing from Solskjaer has never faltered.