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21st of October 2018

Sport



Michael Carrick: I want to repay Jose Mourinho at Manchester United

There is a line in Michael Carrick's new autobiography where he concedes 'I am like my dad and I keep my emotions hidden', so the timing of our chat to promote the book is unfortunate. For we are in the Malmaison's Aviator suite on a mild Wednesday evening in September and around 21 hours earlier Derby ejected Manchester United from the Carabao Cup in a penalty shootout.

Since then, Jose Mourinho has rounded on Phil Jones's penalty technique and cameras have captured Paul Pogba and the United manager having a fraught exchange at the club's training ground. The footage has gone viral and Carrick appears in it.

It has just gone 7pm and the journalist who has emerged from the previous slot with Carrick warns me in the corridor the 36-year-old is 'tired'. As this correspondent enters the room, Carrick is sat down but offers a polite hello and name address, before half-rising to shake hands. Dressed in jeans and a zipped cream fleece, he does not look careworn from the added stresses of coaching or the agony of the previous night and appears fresh from training.

He will have spent the night spent tossing and turning, staring at the ceiling and replaying Sergio Romero's red card and Jones' penalty. The first chapter in Carrick's book is entitled 'Red', where he recalls his away day in the Anfield Road End in 2016 and taking his son, Jacey, to Turf Moor in January of this year, where he started a rendition of 'U-N-I-T-E-D'. United have a new adopted Mancunian: "I can ask myself as a supporter," he says. "I can tell you, there can't be anyone more disappointed than me after we get beat,"

Pogba clasped hands with Carrick mere seconds before Mourinho collared him on his Instagram activity during the Derby tie. Sky Sports News have drip-fed snippets throughout the day and cobbled together a transcript. Mourinho is overheard uttering 'Get out' and mentioning 'Instagram'. At a time where emotions appear to be bubbling, Carrick is conscious to keep the temperature down.

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Carrick is on social media but gives the impression his arrival in the Twittersphere was coerced by his wife and there is a passage in his autobiography, Between the Lines, where he reflects on United's commanding 2-1 victory at Liverpool in 2015, probably their finest performance at Anfield this century; one enriched by Juan Mata's scissor kick winner and the schadenfreude at the dismissed Steven Gerrard's expense.

Only it is tinged with regret for Carrick. Ten of the squad members have never been involved in a Liverpool-United battle on Merseyside and the dressing room is 'rocking'. Someone - Carrick does not say who - arranges for a celebratory photo that is taken by masseur Andy Caveney.

Starters and substitutes appear in the shot, including Carrick - 'against what he believes'. The photo is shotgunned over the internet through the players' social media accounts and lapped up by ecstatic United supporters reeling from five defeats in the last seven at Liverpool. Carrick feels 'ashamed' and describes it as 'one of the worst things I've ever done'.

Carrick sheepishly poses in the Anfield dressing room Carrick sheepishly poses in the Anfield dressing room

"It's obvious when I was a player 10 or 15 years ago, what you did then to what you did now, the world's very different," he tells MEN Sport. "These things [he holds up his iPhone] are very different and there are certain things you've got to live with, but there are boundaries for everything, of course there is. So that's what you've got to gauge.

"I wouldn't sit here now and say, 'This is right, this is wrong', but there is a duty now. It's open to new things, a new world to changing rooms and training ground and being in and around the team. So it's something that you've got to look after.

"I've always been a bit old school, too old-fashioned, I was brought up where you were lucky if you had a phone, never mind have it in the changing room! So that's just something I was brought up with. My wife has a go at me all the time about, 'come on you've got to get with the times a little bit'. She's probably right but that's just how it is."

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Carrick clarifies it would 'not be right' to continue tweeting now he is assistant to Mourinho. He will only use Twitter to promote his foundation, which will benefit from exposure through his personal 2.3million following. You can imagine Carrick approving of Sir Alex Ferguson's suggestion players ought to 'go to the library' rather than post 140-character musings.

Former United players Darron Gibson and Tom Cleverley were hounded off the platform by keyboard warriors. Carrick has a thicker skin but it has got personal. His wife, Lisa, took umbrage with Roy Keane's analysis of Carrick's 'flat' interview in the wake of United's infamous 2014 Champions League defeat to Olympiakos. "Roy Keane, what a ****," Mrs Carrick tweeted. Mr Carrick, stewing on the United coach in Athens, received a phone call from his tearful wife.

"After a game like that, it's a horrible place to be," Carrick says. "I brushed it off, as for Lisa and Roy Keane, that was irrelevant, it was the fact we lost the game. It wasn't good enough. Just any game that you lose with United you suffer with it but, us as players and me, you suffer more than most because you're responsible for it and that's probably the thing that, at certain points, some supporters think we literally lose and brush it off and go live our life for a week until the next game.

De Gea, Vidic, Ferdinand and Carrick react after Olympiakos go 1-0 up De Gea, Vidic, Smalling and Carrick react after Olympiakos go 1-0 up

"But it does literally change your whole life for that week, a bit like today! It totally affects you, it changes your whole mindset for the week. So at that stage, that was the one where you know you've let yourself down, the team down, the fans down, all that sort of stuff, so it's something you've got to deal with and look to the next game. Luckily that one, we put it right, we won the second leg [3-0] and you can move on but obviously Lisa realised, learnt a harsh lesson in a way. It's not fair on her but it's the way it is, I've got no problems with Roy whatsoever."

Carrick's ghost writer Henry Winter notes the five-time Premier League champion 'likes a party'. It paints an unassuming portrait of a player who is guarded and conscious of mimicking his father's bottled emotions and that provides the book with a dark edge. United supporters who watched Carrick throughout his 12 years would regard his most testing period came in the aftermath of the 2009 Champions League final defeat in Rome, where Carrick - and United - were left dizzy by the Barcelona passing carousel.

In the 10th minute, Sergio Busquets clears the ball into United's half and Carrick has a free header but is hesitant as to whether to cushion it for Patrice Evra or Ji-Sung Park and botches it. Xavi switches the loose ball into Andres Iniesta's path first time, he exchanges passes with Lionel Messi and then surges past the panting Anderson and Carrick, whose urgent movement towards Messi creates a chasm. Iniesta plays in Eto'o, who turns Nemanja Vidic too easily before poking the ball through Edwin van der Sar amid Carrick's desperate dive. The fallout was so hysterical a rumour circulated that Ferguson had punched Carrick, whose diagonal passes were regularly read by the Barcelona captain Carles Puyol.

Carrick reacts after United's 2009 Champions League final defeat to Barcelona Carrick reacts after United's 2009 Champions League final defeat to Barcelona

There was an altogether more serious diagnosis, though: Depression. "I was beating myself up," Carrick writes. "Sinking lower and lower, slipping into a depressed state." Carrick had a penalty saved in the second game of the next season at Burnley, who clung on for a 1-0 victory, in what was his most fragile year at the club, synonymous with errors which allowed Ivica Olic and Arjen Robben to strike in Bayern Munich's away goals defeat of United in the Champions League quarter-finals. There was an uncharacteristic red card in Milan and the season ended how it had started for Carrick; on the bench.

That depressive state lasted upwards of a year. In these modern times, sportsmen and women are more candid about their bouts of depression. The German journalist Ronald Reng's 2011 biography of the late goalkeeper Robert Enke is widely regarded as a seminal study on how the illness can afflict a sportsperson and sports institutions and individuals were proactive on World Mental Health Day on Wednesday. Carrick emerged from the 'depths' the year Reng's book was published.

Olic scores as Carrick looks on in 2010 Olic scores as Carrick looks on in 2010

"It's easier to talk about it once it's done and I've come out the other side," he explains. "I was never not going to talk about it. It is part of my journey, part of my story and it's kind of an important time for me to put in. I'm not ashamed of it and was never going to hide it, it was for me, it didn't feel right to talk about it then, I was going through it and I was too busy thinking about trying to be better, trying to be successful, win things, play football as good as I can, to actually come out and talk about that." He pauses. "Too stubborn, maybe," he smiles.

"I don't know why. I never for once thought about telling anyone about it at that stage, apart from my family, apart from my wife, my mum and dad and my brother, and even then I still kept it from them a little bit, I just felt that it was something to get through and get back to winning and get back to playing well, that's all I was worried about. That's all I was focused about, getting back to playing well again, being in a team and winning things again, and that's the only thing I bothered about at that time."

Reading Carrick's book, his happiness as a player and a person seems partly dependent on United's results. He admits his children, Jacey and daughter Louise, have provided perspective and escapism but United's tribulations continue to consume him as a coach.

Carrick now sits alongside Mourinho Carrick now sits alongside Mourinho

"Whether I'm a player, whether I'm a coach. It takes over my life," he stresses. "You don't sleep that night, you don't sleep the next night, you go on the street and you feel almost like, everyone's looking at you, like, 'oh, they got beat last night', that's how it is. There's no hiding from it.

"It's not a case of life goes on as normal because it's impossible to do that. So of course, I understand what it means to people and how it affects people because it affects me just as much. That's not being selfish, I just understand how it feels, so that makes it harder to take. I think if you don't understand how it feels and it doesn't hurt you that much then it's easier to take. But that's certainly not the case.

Carrick lifts his last trophy with United at the Europa League final in Stockholm Carrick lifts his last trophy with United at the Europa League final in Stockholm

"It [escapism]'s important because you keep going and going and going for so long you need a bit of relief along the way, especially at United. It's a beast of a club, it does take over your life."

Even under the dithering days of David Moyes Carrick cannot have experienced such intense exposure as United have with Mourinho as their figurehead. Carrick was seldom a regular during his two years as vice-captain and then captain under the Portuguese but, as the last member remaining from the 2008 Premier League and Champions League winners, the Geordie is as invaluable to retaining United's standards and identity as the local generation of the Class of '92 Youth Cup winners.

He will sound out Ryan Giggs, assistant to Louis van Gaal, for advice. "A little bit, not massively but yeah, it's something that I will do yeah," he says. "It's something new as well and you've got to live the experience a little bit as well and it's a total change, I've done the same thing, same role, same mindset for so long and then all of a sudden it changes overnight.

Carrick began playing with Giggs in 2006 Carrick began playing with Giggs in 2006

"My preparation now for a game is a lot different from when I was a player and my week's totally different, that's just something I get used to over time and it feels natural now. Just got to get on with it."

Pogba credited Carrick for influencing his performance in the April derby comeback and his mentoring goes beyond the midfielders. Carrick was analysing Alexis Sanchez's performances with the Chilean last season as he prepared to step off the pitch and into the dugout and has quickly gained respect as a coach from his former teammates.

Dressing room witnesses have depicted Carrick as the good cop conduit between manager and players. The very mention of Pogba prompts Carrick to become guarded.

Carrick advises Mourinho against Tottenham Carrick advises Mourinho against Tottenham

"I don't want to go into details, to be honest," he replies. "But it's just, all I can say really, when you're a coach and last year even when I was playing I was thinking more as a coach probably than as a player and I was trying to think, 'Okay now I'm in this position, how can I help? What can I do to help the boys?' Knowing there was a crossover period to this season, and it's something I've been conscious of for a bit of time, trying to pass on experiences and just help. 'Do they need a little pick me up? Do they need a firm word?' Whatever it is, any player really, you're trying to help them all as individuals, as a group."

Carrick lines up in a United XI for the first time against Porto in August 2006. Back row: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Edwin van der Sar, Michael Carrick, Wes Brown, John O'Shea, Phil Bardsley.
Front row: Ji-Sung Park, Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes Patrice Evra Carrick lines up in a United XI for the first time against Porto in August 2006. Back row: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Edwin van der Sar, Michael Carrick, Wes Brown, John O'Shea, Phil Bardsley. Front row: Ji-Sung Park, Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes Patrice Evra

Now for the inevitable question: Does he want to manage United? "Do you know, I can't answer that," he straight-bats. "Only because I'm, what, three or four months into the start of my coaching. I'd love to be a manager one day, whether that's however long, could be whatever, I'm not blasé enough to say, 'I am going to be a manager'.

"I've got to start and earn the right to do that and, as I said, however long that takes, it might never happen, I don't know. It's like being a player; you set up to be a footballer as a young kid, does it happen, does it not? It's the same thing now. But obviously I'm giving everything I can and, at this moment in time, it's something I'd love to do."

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Carrick is struck by Mourinho's drive. "The biggest thing is he's a winner," he notes. "He's desperate to win, he's won wherever he's gone, we've won trophies since he's been here, we've got to win more, that's what we strive towards but that's the biggest thing for me, he's a winner.

"He's been unbelievable to me, he's helped me, gone out of his way to make me feel a part of his team, and trust is the biggest thing, he's trusted me. So that's a huge thing for him to do and hopefully I can repay him for that trust."

So how is the current mood at the club?

"Yeah... I wouldn't really want to get into that, to be honest with you."

Those emotions remain hidden.

Michael Carrick: Between the Lines: My Autobiography to be published by Blink Publishing on October 18. All of Carrick's proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the Michael Carrick Foundation.

Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org

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