Jose Mourinho has yet to take a decision on the extension of Michael Carrick’s Manchester United career into an 11th season. The midfielder, who turns 36 in July, has stated that he would “probably” elect to retire from football were Mourinho to decide against sanctioning a further single-season renewal.
A significant reinforcement of United’s midfield is a priority for the Old Trafford manager ahead of his second summer transfer window at the club. With the high earning Bastian Schweinsteiger surplus to requirements, and Morgan Schneiderlin sold to Everton in January, specialist central midfield options are limited to Carrick, Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba.
Mourinho’s practice at past clubs has been to construct a midfield that could control matches in a range of situations without regularly changing personnel. At United, however, he has felt obliged to consistently alter shape and player selection in response to the opposition.
With more than two-thirds of their Premier League schedule completed, only Pogba and Herrera have started more than 11 matches. Both the Frenchman and the Spaniard have operated in a full range of central roles as Mourinho has typically shifted between setting up with two players shielding his back four, or coupling one holding midfielder with a box-to-box ‘number 8’.
To balance a key area of the team and fully exploit Pogba’s ability to create play, the recruitment of a specialist defensive midfielder is a priority for the summer market. Mourinho has been looking for an individual who is strong in recovering possession, an able passer of the ball, and who can add aerial power to his team. An unsuccessful attempt was made to sign Tiemoue Bakayoko from AS Monaco in the winter window. Bakayoko’s versatile midfield partner Fabinho has also been recommended to the coach.
Signed to a one-year contract last June on Mourinho’s instruction, Carrick played an important role in initiating United’s long mid-season unbeaten run, making a series of starts in November, December and January. In recent weeks his playing time has been limited, starting just two Premier League matches and making just one appearance for a full 90 minutes – in the FA Cup win at Blackburn Rovers.
Carrick became so disillusioned with the management and tactical approach of Louis van Gaal that he considered retiring from the game last season. Mourinho has described Carrick as “phenomenal” and “a player that it is very difficult to replace”, yet is conscious that the England international’s playing time requires careful management.
Discussing the possibility of ending his playing career earlier this month, Carrick said: “I haven’t really had that much of a conversation with [Mourinho] at the moment. Obviously that will happen, it’s going to happen at some stage, pretty soon I’d have thought. That’s something I’m really relaxed about. I’m sure he is as well.
“I don’t think there’s many places I’d want to play, if any, after this anyway. I probably would say, yes, that would be it if I left in the summer. I couldn’t say definitely, but pretty much.
“I feel really good, to be honest. You’ve just got to judge how you go. It can change quite quickly. I feel fine. It’s a good place to be at the minute, there is real positivity around the place and hopefully things this season that we can achieve. And that keeps me going.”
Carrick’s appearance as a half-time substitute in February’s League Cup Final victory over Southampton delivered the 10th major trophy of his career. Signed from Tottenham Hotspur for £18.6m, Carrick has won five Premier League titles, two League Cups, one FA Cup, one Champions League and one Club World Cup during his decade at Old Trafford.