Goals may get headlines but do they get the PFA Player of the Year award? Robin van Persie, Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale are three of the favourites to land the prize on Sunday evening but if other factors were taken into account, Manchester United’s Michael Carrick would be the favourite.
Not only has Carrick been the driving force of United’s midfield as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side has strolled to the Premier League title, but, statistically, he is head and shoulders above any player in his position in the division.
No player has played more passes than Carrick. His pass success rate is higher than the league average – and he’s not simply passing the ball sideways, crab-like, to no effect. It’s not possession for possession’s sake. Carrick has a substantially higher average of forward passes than the league’s average, as the graphic shows.
Carrick has started more league games than any United player bar van Persie and Patrice Evra this season, and only van Persie, with an extra substitute appearance, has been used more often. The Guardian describes Carrick as Ferguson’s “go-to man”, crediting Carrick’s consistency as a chief reason United have surged away from City.
Van Persie has not carried the can in attack on his own, as the newspaper suggests Carrick has. The Dutchman has had Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck for company, with the other three forwards at Old Trafford getting 21 league goals between them. As the Guardian illustrated, Carrick is Ferguson’s only high-class midfielder.
Carrick’s value in United’s midfield is more comparable to Suarez’s importance to Liverpool, or Bale’s to Tottenham. They are equally irreplaceable for their managers, as Brendan Rodgers is about to find out as Suarez begins his 10-game ban, and Andre Villas-Boas discovered when Bale was sidelined through injury.
It’s the combination of importance to the side, statistical excellence and – crucially – silverware that puts Carrick in contention. Bale and Suarez, for all their praise and undoubted quality, have not been part of a successful side this season. Van Persie has, but Carrick has shouldered the burden of United’s lightweight midfield in a way the striker has not had to in attack.
And would van Persie have been nearly as prolific without Carrick? Arsene Wenger thinks not. The Arsenal manager has backed Carrick over his former prot