Carrick amused by sudden praise
Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick has dismissed suggestions that this has been a breakthrough season for him Robin van Persie may have grabbed all the headlines after scoring 26 goals in his debut year at Manchester United, but Carrick's input has been just as important in delivering Sir Alex Ferguson a perfect send-off in the form of the Premier League title. Over the last few years Carrick has perhaps not received the recognition that his ability merits. Since he moved from Tottenham in 2006, the midfielder has been a near ever-present in the United team, averaging around 45 games per season during a period that has seen the club win five titles, one Champions League and one League Cup. The fact that he has been playing alongside Paul Scholes for the majority of that time is probably the reason why Carrick has not received so much acclaim. But now that age has caught up with a player who many regard as United's greatest ever midfielder, Carrick's contribution has been more widely noticed - much to his surprise. Carrick said: "It slightly amuses me when I see or hear people saying different things (about me), as if I have suddenly appeared from nowhere. "I have maybe played a little bit better than I have done in the past, but I have been happy with my form for a long time really. "A couple of people say something and it snowballs from there. "Obviously you have to be doing things right on the pitch, but it is slightly strange how it has come about this season." To say Carrick has merely been doing "the right things" this season is quite an understatement. The 31-year-old has completed 2147 passes in the league this year, second only to Arsenal's Mikel Arteta. And what is more, United's players' player of the season has a 90% pass completion rate. This has not gone unnoticed by Roy Hodgson. The England manager considers Carrick an integral part of his squad, and given the absence of Steven Gerrard, Tom Cleverley and Jack Wilshere through injury, the Manchester United man is likely to feature against the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday and in the Maracana on Sunday versus Brazil. It seems strange to think that just three years ago Carrick made Fabio Capello's World Cup squad, but did not play one minute of a disappointing campaign in South Africa. Carrick does not wish to dwell on that experience, and is instead determined to focus on trying to help the Three Lions qualify for Rio 2014. "What's done is done, whether it's good, bad or indifferent, it's about the next challenge and making the most of that challenge," Carrick said. "The next challenge is to qualify for the World Cup and then to make your mark as a team. Looking back doesn't really help you or achieve much, you should only do that when you're retired and have your slippers on." Carrick knows England still have some way to go before he can add competing in a Brazil World Cup to his impressive CV, however. A 1-1 draw in Montenegro two months ago has left Hodgson's men two points behind the Balkan country but, with four games left, Carrick insists England should not be too worried about their plight. "We are quite happy with the situation we are in," he said. "It's in our hands. If we win the games we need to we will be okay. "We feel we are close to being a very, very good team at this level, close to challenging anyone, but it's up to us to prove it now."
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