The final Monday Verdict of the season reflects on Man Utd’s mission impossible to replace Michael Carrick, a time of change for Arsenal and why Man City may struggle next season.
FIVE REASONS WHY REPLACING CARRICK WILL BE UNITED’S HARDEST JOB THIS SUMMER
Michael Carrick may not have featured much for Manchester United this season, but there’s little doubting the midfielder will be a huge miss around the first-team squad next term.
The midfielder brought the curtain down on his long and successful United career on Sunday as Jose Mourinho’s men 1-0 against Brighton at Old Trafford. With Carrick setting up Marcus Rashford for the winner, it was a fitting farewell for a man who has often been criminally underrated throughout his career.
Finding his replacement in the United squad will not only prove costly, it will also prove nigh-on impossible, as James Marshment explains five key facets Mourinho’s men will look for in a potential successor.
1) Big-match experience
Despite featuring very little during Mourinho’s two years in charge, Carrick has still racked up 677 career appearances.
To put into context, the next (current) United stars to have played the most games are veteran full-backs Antonio Valencia (521) and Ashley Young (501). In terms of midfield, United at least have Juan Mata (532) and Nemanja Matic (401).
However, finding the right man to fill Carrick’s boots, boast the big-game experience and deliver the same success, well, there’s very few men in the world game capable of ticking every box.
2) Makes United tick
He might not be the most headline-capturing stars of his generation, but few players can be as important to making a side tick as Carrick can.
Picking up the ball in deep positions and influencing the player further up the park by spotting a key pass is a far harder skill than is credited; it’s also one that can’t be coached.
3) Brings teammates into play
As well as dictating play, Carrick is also brilliant at bringing the best out of his teammates. You can’t help but feel Paul Pogba’s troubles and inconsistencies would have been virtually non existent had he had the benefit of playing alongside a Michael Carrick of six to seven years ago.
Others over the years have also thrived from having the Wallsend-born star alongside him as best summed up here by Ryan Giggs: “Playing both with Michael and against him, you realise what a great player he is. For me personally, moving into midfield as I did and playing so many times alongside Michael, he just made it so easy for me. You would give him the ball and could trust him with it, he’d always make the right pass and he had that calming influence both on and off the pitch.”
4) Calming influence
As touched on by Giggs, above, there’s just something about Carrick that brings an air of calmness and gracefulness to United’s midfield and in the words of Gary Neville: “When you play with Michael Carrick you know there is authority, control, peace about the side.
“Scholes and Carrick together was peaceful. It was like going into a bar and hearing a piano playing. It’s relaxing. Listening to some good rock is good and you like that too but sometimes it’s nice to listen to a piano. Carrick’s a piano.”
5) Serial winner
Carrick leaves United at a time when some pundits are demolishing their ‘achievements’ in finishing a long-distant second behind Man City.
Yet for so many years, he was the heartbeat of a side than won five Premier League titles, the Champions League, Europa League and the FA Cup.
Back then, success was almost a given; now their supporters would snap off your hand if offered some of the game’s biggest prizes once again.
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AUBAMEYANG FOR 2019 GOLDEN BOOT
Arsene Wenger used his final win as Arsenal boss to declare his belief that the Gunners can challenge for the Premier League title next season.
“I see a bright future for my successor because the team has a good attitude and quality. The team needs some additions and if they get them I think they will compete for the Premier League title,” the outgoing Frenchman declared.
And while there is no doubting the team needs some key signings – most notably in defence and perhaps goal – it is one of Wenger’s final signings as manager that can lead a title assault next season.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the Gunners’ matchwinner on Sunday and the Gabon striker finished his short opening season at the club with 10 goals in 14 appearances for the club.
On current form, the former Dortmund man would be my bet to win the Premier League’s Golden Boot next season and, who knows, perhaps even equal the remarkable achievements of Mo Salah this season.
However, while scoring 32 goals over the course of a 38 game season is a tall order to ask, Arsenal challenging for the title might not quite the fairytale many assume it will be.
The Gunners already have an abundance of talents going forwards; get the right manager in – and some much-needed freshness about the club and who knows what might happen, especially if they get a few astute signings over the line and address those all-too-obvious areas of weakness.
SEVERAL FACTORS POINT TO FAR HARDER SEASON FOR MAN CITY NEXT TIME AROUND
The record looked like it was about to elude them until up popped Gabriel Jesus to score the winner at Southampton and ensure Man City claimed the first 100-point tally in Premier League history.
Pep Guardiola’s side have been sensational this season and deserve every plaudit coming their way.
Yet remarkably, you get the sense there is still more to come and room for improvement against a side, who let themselves down in their two Champions League matches against Liverpool this season.
100 – This is the first time in his career that Pep Guardiola has won 100 points in a single season as manager. Momentous. pic.twitter.com/RxA4QSXo9N
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 13, 2018
City will no doubt spend big again this season, but there are signs that next season’s title race will be far harder given the way Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal should all boast stronger squads.
Then there’s the title crown, which has worn heavy on Chelsea (this season and in 2015/16) and Leicester (2016/17) in the last three seasons. In fact, the Blues’ ‘achievement’ of finishing fifth is the highest a Premier League champion has finished in four seasons!
WHY FODEN COULD PROVE GAME-CHANGER AT WORLD CUP
Gareth Southgate will name his 23-man England squad this week and one man who is unlikely to make it, but who should be considered, is Phil Foden.
The 17-year-old Man City midfielder has only recently been capped at Under-19 level, but he has shown enough so far for club and country that he would be a worthy wild-card inclusion.
Foden has made nine appearances for City this season, four in the Premier League and he is quite clearly been moulded into the successor to David Silva.
He is a rookie, and lacking in Premier League experience, but the Stockport-born schemer has a similar swagger to his more illustrious teammate, and his impact at The Etihad is growing with Pep Guardiola a huge fan.
He handed Foden his Champions League debut this season as he became the youngest Englishman to play in the knockout stages of the tournament.
“He was good,” said Guardiola after the 2-1 defeat by Basel in March. “In the second half maybe him with Leroy Sane, was the only one who tried to be aggressive, tried to do something, to get the ball and move forward.
“It didn’t matter after he lost the ball. He just passed the ball.”
Foden, who turns 18 later this month, has the ability to drift past opponents, take players out with accurate forward passing and he has a work-rate similar to that of Silva. And when you look at other midfield options available to England, Foden looks a standout option, despite his inexperience.
If Southgate is looking for an option to win a game then Foden, who has experienced winning the World Cup for the U17s last year, is probably one of the best options he has available to him. He is also learning from the master at The Etihad and he would be more than able to keep possession of the ball – a factor which England seem to struggle with at major tournaments
With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain missing though injury there will be at least one midfield spot up for grabs and Foden’s attacking prowess should not be overlooked.
WHY THE ‘BOY’ FARIA IS READY TO BECOME A MAN(AGER)
Rui Faria is leaving Manchester United and has been tipped by Jose Mourinho to embark on a successful career as a manager.
Mourinho said “the kid is now a man” after his assistant of 17 years decided the time had come to go his own way.
Here are five things to know about 42-year-old Faria, who could be a contender for top jobs this summer.
1. He caught Mourinho’s eye early
While studying for a sports science degree at university in Porto, Faria is reputed to have sought help from Mourinho, who was serving as Louis van Gaal’s Barcelona assistant. After being invited to visit the Nou Camp, he is said to have swiftly struck up a firm bond with Mourinho. He completed a sports science thesis on the high-performance element of football and Mourinho later summoned Faria to join his staff at Uniao Leiria. It was Mourinho’s second job as a head coach, while Faria was fresh out of his degree studies.
2. A good fit
Faria’s expertise has been in fitness training and bringing players up to the physical level required at the highest level. He has been described by Mourinho as the manager’s “methodology right arm, the guy that understands best my information and the way I work”.
3. A dedicated follower
Faria has been a mainstay at Mourinho’s side, moving on from Uniao Leiria to Porto, then to Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, back to Chelsea and eventually to Old Trafford. The acclaim has always gone to Mourinho, but Faria’s work has been an important part of his fellow Portuguese’s success.
4. It wasn’t a hat trick
UEFA officials made Faria remove his woolly hat at half-time in Chelsea’s 2005 Champions League quarter-final second leg against Bayern Munich in Germany, to prove he was not in communication with banned boss Mourinho. Faria, who denied wrongdoing, was ushered into a side room and told to remove his hat after allegations he passed on messages from Mourinho to assistants Baltemar Brito and Steve Clarke during the first leg at Stamford Bridge.
5. No stranger to trouble
Like Mourinho, Faria has had an occasion run-in with the authorities. Usually in the background, he was in the spotlight in 2014 when he attempted to confront referee Mike Dean at the end of Chelsea’s shock 1-0 home defeat to Sunderland. Restrained by Mourinho, Faria was initially given a six-match stadium ban, later reduced to four games after an appeal. As well as his conduct towards Dean, Faria admitted verbally abusing fourth official Phil Dowd.
WHAT NEXT FOR ARSENE WENGER?
Arsene Wenger has overseen his last match as Arsenal manager after more than two decades in charge.
Here, we look at what may be next for the 68-year-old….
RETURN TO FRANCE
Wenger has not managed in his own country for 24 years, so a return home could prove tempting. There will be a vacancy at Paris St Germain, with title-winning coach Unai Emery departing because of their Champions League failure. It is far from inconceivable too that there could be a vacancy at Monaco, the club Wenger managed from 1987 to 1994, given their current boss, Leonardo Jardim, is likely to be in demand this summer.
Taking over at another Premier League club hardly seems appropriate for a man who will forever be associated with Arsenal, but might Serie A be a possibility? Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri is among the leading contenders to succeed Wenger at Arsenal, creating a potential vacancy in Turin.
JOIN THE CHINESE REVOLUTION
A host of global stars have been attracted to the Chinese Super League by the astronomical wages on offer and luring a manager of Wenger’s calibre would be another huge coup. The Frenchman has experience of the Far East from his time with Nagoya Grampus Eight in Japan, but would he be prepared to all but kiss goodbye to his career in elite-level management, however attractive the salary?
Time is running out for Wenger if he fancies a crack at a major international tournament. Didier Deschamps looks secure in the France job, so too Gareth Southgate with England, ruling out the two most obvious destinations, but performances at this summer’s World Cup could change circumstances, while plenty of other national associations would love to have him at the helm.
After 22 years at the forefront of English football, handling big-name players, clashing with rival managers, absorbing abuse from opposition and, increasingly, his own fans, no-one would begrudge Wenger a much-deserved rest. He would be in great demand as a pundit, but it remains to be seen whether that would be enough to feed his appetite for the game.
By James Marshment and Matthew Briggs