Going by recent history, injuries to Manchester United players never keep them out as much as the initial assessments suggest, but no matter how long Michael Carrick is going to need to recover from his Achilles tendon problem, it’s a big blow for the Premier League champions.
Is Michael Carrick indispensable? Probably not, but he’s usually referred to as the first name on Moyes’ team sheet, being the only central midfielder he is truly confident of, and the best one of the bunch when it comes to both holding the midfield intact defensively and being able to build up attacks from behind.
Carrick has played in 10 out of 11 league matches for United this season, not being substituted once. He usually has been partnered with Tom Cleverley, but has also seen a pairing with Marouane Fellaini and Phil Jones, and even Anderson twice, although he probably isn’t too high up Moyes’ plans for contingency.
So who steps in for Carrick, and what will the Manchester United midfield look like for the next month and probably more, with early assessments suggesting he’ll be out till Christmas. Cleverley will probably be a more permanent fixture in the lineup, but there’s a good chance Phil Jones plays next to him, being the defensive presence Manchester United need in a midfield that is often the inferior one against too many opponents.
Maybe Marouane Fellaini will get new chances to show he is cut out for this level and these expectations in a bigger role than before, but it won’t be surprising to see David Moyes trying something else, which might be pulling Ryan Giggs from the edge of the bench and seeing if there are a few more drops of juice to squeeze out of him, or maybe finally finding a central position for Shinji Kagawa, opening up the left side of the midfield for Adnan Januzaj, this time for good.
Wayne Rooney, like it or not, will probably play a big role in things, helping out in a deeper position than he usually does. Carrick’s influence isn’t just replaced with one player, and it’s going to take more than just Moyes making the right selections on match day to make it so the momentum doesn’t stop. If it’s just going to be replacing one name for another, Manchester United’s recent stretch of good results isn’t going to last very long.