Michael Carrick ended his 19-year playing career in the summer to take his first coaching job at Manchester United.
As a player he won five Premier League titles and the Champions League, as well as picking up 34 caps for England. But in his new autobiography, “Between the Lines” — the profits of which will go to the Michael Carrick foundation — the 37-year-old has revealed things did not always go as smoothly off the pitch, opening up about his battle with depression following the 2009 Champions League final defeat to Barcelona in Rome.
In an interview, Carrick talks about his new book, the ups and down of his career, and how he is learning for a future career as a manager.
Q. You grew up in Newcastle and started your career at West Ham, but Manchester United seems to run all the way through the book…
A. When I was doing the book I’d remember little things and I’d think ‘that was United actually and that was United as well.’ I was a youth team player cleaning the away team dressing room and I remember Sir Alex walking down the corridor with his blazer on and the crest. I was in awe, trying to take it all in wide-eyed when I was a 16-, 17-, 18-year-old. I had no ties to United. In Newcastle, people don’t support Man United you know! It’s Newcastle and you hate the rest. I certainly wasn’t a fan at all. That’s obviously changed in time, but strangely there was always that snippet that seemed to be United, United, United.
Q. What’s Gary Neville going to say when he finds out you had a Liverpool shirt as a kid?
A. I think there could be a few people surprised at that one! That’s the beauty of growing up as a kid supporting football. You just follow whatever you’re going to follow. You look back and think ‘how does that work?’ That’s the innocence of being a kid I think.
Q. Can you pinpoint the moment you believed you might make it?
A. Not really until I came to United that I thought about winning things. The 2006 World Cup was the summer I came to United so the England thing was kind of ongoing. Getting to the World Cup was massive but it wasn’t until I got to United that I had that feeling that winning was a possibility. At Tottenham we might have had a good cup run but we weren’t actually thinking ‘we can win this.’ It was about how far we could go or ‘could we get into the Champions League?’ That changed dramatically for me when I came to Old Trafford and seeing what was kind of expected here and the approach of the lads and the manager. It was just a different level completely.
Q. You have opened up about depression in the book. Did you find it difficult to talk about?
A. Not to talk about, no. It was never something that I thought ‘I can’t talk about this, I don’t want anyone to know.’ It was quite a natural thing for me. That’s how it was, that’s exactly how I felt at that time. I’m not ashamed of it. I wish I’d dealt with it better in some ways; I wish it didn’t last as long; I wish I wasn’t so low, but that’s how it is.
People talk about the England squad, am I frustrated at not playing more for England, it’s just how it was. That’s the story. When I was down, it was a tough time. You keep asking yourself the question ‘why am I feeling like this’ and beating myself up for feeling like that knowing that I’ve got two healthy kids, lovely wife, couldn’t be happier. Playing for Man United, we had just come off winning three leagues and you’re thinking ‘what’s wrong?’ But I couldn’t shake it off.
It started in Rome, losing the [in 2009] and it was a bizarre year. It was niggling away and I couldn’t shrug it off. I came out the back of it in late 2010 and all of a sudden everything is rosy again and I’ve not looked back. When you get out the other side it’s a relief and everything is a bit lighter and a bit happier and the sun is shining a little bit more.
Q. How hard has it been to go from teammate to coach at United?
A. Yeah, it’s a difficult balance to get but I think the lads have been great. It’s a respect thing both ways. I’ve stepped out of that now and they need their space. If something is going on I can’t be like ‘what’s going on boys?’ I’ve got to withdraw from that. And they’ve respected my position and not made it uncomfortable for me at all. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s felt quite natural. The way my career ended and going into this felt quite natural and there hasn’t really been a time when I’ve felt in the middle or uncomfortable.
Q. You’ve played under Harry Redknapp, Sir Alex Ferguson, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Jose Mourinho, have you tried to take bits from all of them into your coaching?
A. I’ve tried to. You look back and you think ‘why did I not take more in?’ When you’re young you’re just focused on football and the rest of it, you don’t really understand why the manager is doing that. It’s not until you look back and realise that he’s been quite clever with that. That worked or that didn’t work.
Subconsciously you’re storing things and you go back to them. Certainly every manager I’ve played under you take things from them. That’s just part of gaining all that knowledge over the years. Some good, some not so good, but it’s all part of the process.
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