Goodbye wing-backs; How Michael Carrick’s Middlesbrough XI could look
When trying to analyze the changes Michael Carrick would potentially introduce at Middlesbrough, it must be mentioned that we are dealing with a very small sample size. The former England international even took charge of the senior team only three times; that short-lived spell as interim Manchester United boss a year ago, sandwiched between the sackings of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick.
But Boro fans can get a better idea of what to expect from Carrick – who the Northern Echo say is their preferred candidate to take over from Chris Wilder – by checking out what he had to say on the FA’s official website in 2020.
“When I watch games, I really focus on the attacking space. Whether it’s how to attack when the keeper has the ball, where the space is and how we can build up the pitch,” Carrick said.
Property and patience
As you might expect, given how one of the Premier League’s most underrated midfielders played in his prime at Old Trafford, manager Carrick seems to favor a patient, possession-based approach. That should be in line with the squad he could potentially inherit at the Riverside. After all, Boro are currently fifth in the Championship table in average possession per game (56 per cent, WhoScored).
An intelligent and deliberate character, Carrick is also considered an impressive manager. His vast experience and excellent communication skills could help spark an immediate turnaround in form from a Middlesbrough squad that is far more talented than their current league position would suggest.
“He is very easy to learn from. When he tells you something, it’s so easy to pick up because you understand it straight away,” former United midfielder Andreas Pereira once told Sky Sports. “I’m very lucky she’s here for me.
“I’m learning day by day,” Brazil international Fred added around the same time (Telegraph). “I have a good relationship with the manager and the coaches. I talk to (Carrick) every day. Michael played in my position – he knows what he’s talking about.’
Michael Carrick is the top candidate to replace Chris Wilder as Middlesbrough manager
In Man United’s three games under Carrick, they each started with a flat-back back four; usually set up in 4-2-3-1. His United played with noticeably more movement and positional rotation than Solskjaer, Bruno Fernandes was even tested as a false nine. Cristiano Ronaldo’s dismissal for Carrick’s first game, a 1-1 draw with Chelsea, is also proof that the 41-year-old is not afraid of big decisions; left out their most high-profile player to help improve United’s pressure up front.
Perhaps his biggest decision at Middlesbrough should he take the job after what the Echo described as “preliminary talks” would be to stick with Wilder’s signature wing-back system or switch to a back four. In Isaiah Jones and Ryan Giles, Boro have two of the most technically gifted and creative defenders in the Championship. However, both players have thrived at this level as orthodox wingers before and would surely do so again.
What could change at Riverside?
With Carrick preferring to move the ball through the thirds, the talented Riley McGree and Alex Mowatt could have important roles in the meantime. Ditto Darragh Lenihan; central defender with an impressive passing range.
Meanwhile, Paddy McNair worked alongside Carrick at Old Trafford. The Northern Ireland international is likely to be a mainstay in the transition period, whoever takes over from Wilder, thanks to his leadership qualities and positional flexibility. Marcus Forss would also hope for a bigger role. The summer signing from Brentford is the most natural finisher in a goal-starved Boro side. Forss also works hard off the ball. If Carrick wants his team to push themselves high – like most young managers – then that could give Forss an edge.
Expect goalkeeper Zack Steffen to be one of the first names on Carrick’s squad. The US gloveman made several serious mistakes in the Northeast. But Pep Guardiola admired him for his distribution and Carrick is likely to demand a high level of technique from his No.1 as well.
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