CHRIS WHEELER: Softly-spoken Michael Carrick may come across as timid but he has a steely side which Sir Alex Ferguson spotted early on in his Manchester United career… being back in the spotlight at Boro will suit him more than we knew
- Michael Carrick will undertake his first management role at Middlesbrough
- The Englishman was appointed the Championship side’s manager on Monday
- At Tuesday’s press conference the new Boro boss laid out his aims and hopes
- Carrick also revealed he spoke to Sir Alex Ferguson before taking on the role
When Michael Carrick got up on stage at Manchester nightspot Victoria Warehouse after his testimonial in 2017 and sang Wonderwall with Robbie Keane, those who know him well weren’t one bit surprised.
While Carrick has always come across as a softly-spoken, shy individual — as understated off the pitch as he was on it — there is another side to the new Middlesbrough boss that is not immediately evident.
Sir Alex Ferguson detected it soon after signing Carrick from Tottenham for £18.6million in the summer of 2006.
Michael Carrick was officially unveiled as Middlesbrough manager on Monday evening
Former midfielder Carrick lifted the Champions League with Manchester United in 2008
‘He was a shy boy who needed to be shaken at times,’ Ferguson wrote in his autobiography. ‘There is a casualness about him that causes people to misunderstand his value and his constitution.’
Gary Neville goes further in his description of a team-mate who won five Premier League titles, the FA Cup, two League Cups, the Champions League, the Europa League and the Club World Cup during his 12-year playing stint at Old Trafford.
The new Middlesbrough boss starred under Sir Alex Ferguson (right) at Man United
‘What people may not understand is the quiet, introverted passion that he holds for Manchester United,’ says Neville.
‘When we won leagues, Michael would be the one singing the most and going home last from the parties; the one that would look the happiest and most joyous behind the scenes at having won a trophy.
‘On the pitch, in front of crowds, he’d maintain his composure, but behind the scenes he showed how much he loved the club. Believe me, he absolutely loves United.’
That was clear when Carrick turned up in the away end to support his old club at Goodison Park earlier this month, instantly recognisable beneath a bobble hat.
Staff at United recall how he and Ryan Giggs would take them out at the end of the season to make sure people who worked behind the scenes got to share in the club’s success.
Those nights would often end with them standing on the tables singing, before Carrick and Giggs always made sure everyone got home safely.
When the Manchester derby at Old Trafford in December 2017 erupted into a dressing-room brawl involving both sets of players, Carrick — by then coming to the end of a playing career curtailed by a heart defect — was in the thick of it, hauling back team-mates and staff members while forcing himself closer to the front.
Carrick was part of a delegation of senior United players who went to Louis van Gaal to tell the Dutchman his training methods were too stodgy and needed freshening up. Van Gaal was upset but respected Carrick and his team-mates enough to take their advice and give them more input.
Carrick was unbeaten in three games during his interim stint in charge of United last season
Carrick revealed he sought the advice of Ferguson (left) before taking the job at Boro
This is man who, when selecting a name for the war game United players often enjoyed on their PlayStations during away trips, opted for Havoc.
None of which plays to the popular view of Carrick as a rather timid individual; one Ferguson rates among the two best passers of a ball at United (along with Paul Scholes) who was only sent off once in a career spanning 700 appearances, despite playing in the heart of midfield.
‘It’s easy to go and smash someone in a tackle but, for me, to take the ball in what people might think are the wrong areas instead of hiding is the most important kind of bravery,’ Carrick once said.
The Englishman (right) was unimpressed by a drop in standards under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Carrick wasn’t a warrior like Roy Keane, who he succeeded in the No 16 shirt at United, but he was a strong character all the same. He needed to be, too.
Having criticised Carrick for a ‘flat’ interview after United lost to Olympiacos in February 2014, Keane took aim again during Carrick’s unbeaten three-match stint as caretaker boss following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sacking last season.
Responding to what he branded ‘ridiculous’ comments by Carrick, Keane raged: ‘I get the impression at Man United the last few years that some of the backroom staff and people upstairs, there’s an element of jobs for the boys. Wink, wink, look after each other, know the right people.’
That was never Carrick, though. As soon as United appointed Ralf Rangnick as interim boss, he handed over the reins and quit, much to everyone’s surprise.
Yes, he wanted a break but also despaired of the drop in standards and the dressing-room cliques that undermined Solskjaer.
Carrick will take charge of Middlesbrough for the first time against Preston on Saturday
Less than a year on, the 41-year-old is taking on his first full-time role back in his native North East at Middlesbrough. He does so with 25 years’ experience as a player and coach under Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Van Gaal, David Moyes and Harry Redknapp.
At his unveiling yesterday, Carrick said he spoke to Ferguson before taking the job and credited him for influencing his career — though he is likely to manage in a different way.
‘Do I look like an angry Scotsman?’ smiled Carrick.
A self-confessed Formula One nut, he will have missed the adrenaline rush of being involved in live sport on a Saturday afternoon. Now, Carrick is back in the spotlight. Back on stage. It’s a place that suits him more than we knew.
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