Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed he always expected Michael Carrick to make it as a professional footballer, from the moment the midfielder uprooted to London as a 16-year-old.
The legendary former Reds manager will be reunited with the player he signed from Tottenham Hotspur in 2006 when he takes charge of the Manchester United 2008 XI in Carrick’s testimonial match at Old Trafford on Sunday 4 June.
Carrick spent his formative years at the famous Wallsend Boys’ Club in his home city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, before making the decision to join West Ham United in 1997, and it was that life-changing switch that later convinced Sir Alex he had the attitude to succeed at United. More than 400 appearances and 16 major trophies later, that has certainly proved to be the case.
“From the minute we bought him, his character has always been absolutely outstanding,” Sir Alex told MUTV. “He’s a football man and that character, plus his ability, made him a certainty to be a big success here.
“When we were discussing him and were ready to make a bid, we were looking at his background and one of the things that stuck out to me was as a young boy, he went down to play for West Ham.
“A 16-year-old kid going way down from Newcastle to east London – that’s a trek, and it epitomised to me the confidence the boy had in himself. That impressed me.
“Geordies do travel,” he continued. “You think of Shearer at Southampton as a kid, Bryan Robson as a kid at West Brom; Sir Bobby Charlton came here when he was 15 years of age.
“They have got a big thing about them, Geordies, in terms of travelling as they want to be players. It’s a great football area. The Wallsend Boys’ Club he came from has produced so many fantastic footballers.”
In 2004, Carrick moved from West Ham to Spurs, where he spent two years before Sir Alex came knocking as he looked to strengthen his United midfield in pursuit of a first title in four seasons.
“I must say negotiations were very difficult and went on for ages,” Sir Alex recalled. “I always remember I thought it was done and [former chief executive] David Gill phoned me on the golf course to say they want more. Typical [Spurs chairman] Daniel Levy!
“It was very hard to negotiate but, at the end of the day, we got it through and, ever since he joined us, he’s had a fantastic career.”