Why Michael Carrick is the most underrated Premier League player of all time

When you ask most football fans who are the best Premier League midfielders of all time, you rightfully hear names like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes, Kevin de Bruyne, Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira.

Despite this, when you ask people to argue why they choose these players, statistics or a heavy amount of nostalgic bias, is often used to justify their choice.

Now there’s nothing wrong with this, but lets delve a little deeper than that.

Let’s discuss a player who’s not flashy by no means, nor did he score many goals or assist many, nor did he look to claim plaudits, but a player who kept Manchester United ticking by and ensured the team remained clockwork.

His name.

Michael Carrick.

Now you’re probably thinking, do I think he’s the best Premier League midfielder ever?


Do I think he should be in the top 10.

Also no.

But do I think he’s the most underrated Premier League player of all time.


Who was Michael Carrick

michael carrick

Carrick was an English midfielder who started his career in East London progressing through the West Ham United academy.

He’s one of the most decorated Premier League players ever now, but in 1999, the Englishman had his first taste of silverware and success winning the FA youth cup.

To mature, Carrick was sent out to Swindon Town and Birmingham City on loan.

His unique talent was quickly seen.

John Francone, a former champion jockey, rang up West Ham manager at the time, Harry Redknapp, to sing Carrick’s praises.

Redknapp said: “I loaned him out to Swindon, and I remember getting a call one night from John Francome, the champion jockey who was a big Swindon fan, and he said, ‘Harry, Michael Carrick is the best player I’ve seen in years. “This Carrick you’ve loaned out is the nearest thing I’ve seen to Glenn Hoddle.”

Carrick swiftly returned back to the irons, having spot the eye of Redknapp and was subsequently given his debut by him.

Just a year later and the central midfielder had risen up the ranks to become a starter for the hammers.

Carrick remained at West Ham for several years but after a relegation and subsequent play-off failure, Carrick was snapped up by huge London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

Two years passed, and with Carrick continuing to improve, Sir Alex Ferguson stepped in and stole the terrific midfielder away.

A deal rising up to £18.6m was enough to secure his signature.

12 years later and Carrick had won it all at United.

Five Premier League’s, a Champions League, one FA Cup, three League Cups, six Community Shields, one Club World Cup and a Europa League later and Carrick still hasnt earn the recognition he deserved.

What limited Carrick’s distinction

His major limitation wasn’t in ability, but his subtle artistic approach to the game.

Carrick sat in midfield and dictated the play like a quarter back.

Playing in the ‘six’, the Englishman would shield the defence using his expert ability to read the game, anticipating and preventing opposition attacks.

Whilst in possession, Carrick was a magician on the ball, never misplacing a pass.

In 2024, with the complete indoctrination of Pep Guardiola’s modern approach to football, through the use of a system which is completely reliant on keeping possession, passing based defensive midfielders like Rodri and Sergio Busquets are more regarded.

However, Carrick came slightly too early.

He was a prime example of the game moving away from the destroyer type defensive midfielders in Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira, to a more subtle but precise art of ball progression and ball retention.

Busquets was a similar midfielder to Carrick, with an exceptional ability to keep the ball and a fantastic passing range. He rose to prominence in Spain playing for Guardiola’s Barcelona in the late noughties, but this style of midfielder wasn’t yet appreciated in England to the extent it is today.

This only occurred after the arrival of Guardiola to Manchester City.

If Carrick was playing in 2024, he’d have been appreciated to a far greater extent.

Like Busquets, Carrick had the complete passing package.

Whilst football can be perceived to be a sport of the highest tactical demand, when it’s stripped back to it’s core, it’s 11 men trying to score more goals than the other.

A simple game.

Carrick perfected this but had the ability to create nothing out of something with his outrageous vision and passing platter.

Everything you’re reading hear would suggest the Englishman should be held in the highest regard.

But that’s where you’re wrong.

How competition killed him

Carrick rose to prominence in an extremely competitive era which saw the tail end of Paul Scholes’ career, combined with the rise of both Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.

These English midfielders were known for their goal scoring and match winning contributions.

Thus, for England, the Chelsea and Liverpool internationals dominated the headlines and were always at the top of the pecking order.

This left Carrick, the less ‘attractive’ option, to loom in the background.

He didn’t score great goals, or assist many, so Carrick didn’t pick up the spotlight nearly as much as his fellow English counterparts.

At that time, unbeknownst to them, England were crying out for a player like Carrick.

The national side tried to force in Gerrard, Lampard and Scholes all in one, but this just didn’t work.

Balance was needed, and Carrick was that.

Thus, the overshadowing of him in the national team was definitely a huge factor in his lack of distinction in the game.

This was exemplified when Carrick was picked for Fabio Capello’s 2010 World Cup team but didn’t feature once.

Ex United and England teammate, Rio Ferdinand spoke about how underappreciated Carrick was.

“He was undervalued 100%, he should have had so many more caps, Ferdinand said.

“He would have added balance to the England midfield.”

Carrick earnt just 34 England caps, which is still a huge honour but for a player of his ability, it should’ve been more.

Whilst Carrick’s quality can be underappreciated, many legends and tacticians of the game saw his quality.

Treble winning manager Guardiola said: “He’s one of the best holding midfielders I’ve seen in my life, by far.

“He’s the level of Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets in Barcelona and Bayern Munich.”

Similarly, from one legendary manager to another and former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, could also see the immense talent the Englishman had.

Wenger said: “Carrick is a quality passer and he could play for Barcelona; he would be perfectly suited to their game. I think he is an underrated player in England and sometimes not only should the goal scorer be rewarded but the real players at the heart of the game.”

Ultimately, in his 464 appearances for the red devils, Carrick was as integral as any.

He even became United captain in 2017 after the departure of Wayne Rooney.

Without United’s number 16, the whole system would have failed.

United wouldn’t have had the success they had in the late noughties, winning the Premier League several times and one Champions League without him.

Carrick really was that good.

As important as Cristiano Ronaldo, but didn’t seek the plaudits.

The man who could make the impossible pass, possible.

That’s why, Michael Carrick is the most underrated Premier League player of all time.