Manchester United captain-turned-coach Michael Carrick loves working with the “great Jose Mourinho”, who he believes is one of the best managerial minds of the past 30 years along with Sir Alex Ferguson.
After calling time on his medal-laden career over the summer, the 37-year-old midfielder swapped the armband for a coaching role as he took up the offer to permanently join United’s backroom staff as first-team coach.
Carrick is enjoying life in the deep end under Mourinho, although a tumultuous start to the season has seen the manager’s position at the Old Trafford helm come under growing scrutiny.
United will be hoping last weekend’s thrilling 3-2 win against Newcastle sparks a revival and, having both worked under and alongside the Portuguese, Carrick’s admiration for the manager is clear.
“When people ask me about him – ‘Jose, what’s he like, what’s he bring?’ – it’s winning that is the thing that strikes me the most,” Carrick told Press Association Sport.
“He’s proven it for so long, you know? To do it where he has gone and done it, it’s winning.
“He’s managed to win trophies at United. We’re striving now to get back to it, but as a manager you can’t hide from the fact about what he’s done. It’s up there with the very best.
“Fortunately for me, you look at the best managers over the last 25-30 years.
“You’re picking the top three, top five – two of them you’d say Jose or Sir Alex are right up there.
“I’ve been lucky enough to experience that and take what I can from both of them.”
Carrick was as delighted as anyone to recently see Ferguson back at Old Trafford after a brain haemorrhage, while the former England international’s gratitude to Mourinho is palpable after being supported through his own health scare in 2017, when he had a procedure to treat an irregular heart rhythm.
Both men have made a big impact on Carrick, who is one day hoping to become a manager in his own right after setting out on his coaching journey at United.
“I think time will tell with that one, really,” Carrick said of management. “It’s difficult to set out on a kind of given pathway.
“If you ask me now, then managing is something that interests and kind of the long game, or the end goal at some point, it’s something that I would like to get to.
“That’s not me assuming that that’s going to happen just because I am where I am now, and the next step is that and the next step is that, and then all of a sudden this is where I’ll end up because I know that’s not how it works.
“But, of course, now, just like when I set out to be a footballer when I was a bit younger and you’re on that first step of the ladder, that’s the target and you try to be as good as you can be.
“That’s exactly where I am at now, trying to be as good as I can be and learn from the great Jose Mourinho at close quarters.
“Learning but at the same time I am there to do a job and I am there to do a job for a reason and I’m well aware that I am not there just on a learning curve.
“I am there to do what he wants me to do, so it’s getting the balance right.”
Carrick enjoys the “constant challenge” of finding ways to support Mourinho, who he tries to help get the best out of players while offering opinions when he feels it is right.
The ex-Tottenham and West Ham player is not the first United star to get a chance to coach at the club he loves – a bond that is plain to see in his upcoming autobiography ‘Between the Lines’.
The book brings a fitting end to a fine playing career, but Carrick is well aware of the difficulties posed when it comes to coaching and perhaps one day management.
“I didn’t come into it thinking ‘ah, this is straightforward, this is going to be easy’ because that’s not the case and I knew that coming in that it’s not easy,” Carrick added.
“Just because you’ve been a half-decent player, by no means it makes you a top player or top coach automatically. So, I am totally aware of that.
“I’ve obviously looked at the lads and seen how they’ve dealt with finishing playing and going into different roles as well, and there’s so many different paths to take.
“People say ‘what’s the right path to take?’ Do you go down a level? Do you stay at the top? Do you go straight into management? Do you coach a youth team?
“I don’t think there’s a right or wrong, I think it depends what fits at the right time for that individual and that’s where I’m at right now.
“It feels natural, it’s a great position.
“Other lads have gone straight into management.
“You look at Frank (Lampard at Derby) and I know Stevie (Gerrard) done a year with the younger lads at Liverpool, but he’s gone straight in at Rangers and it looks like it comes natural to them.
“I’m in my position as I am at the moment and it feels good for me, so we’ll see what the future brings.”