Michael Carrick called time on his playing career at the end of last season having won almost every trophy possible with Manchester United
Had things worked out differently in the summer of 2004, however, Carrick might well have been an Arsenal player for the bulk of his career. The former England international’s soon-to-be released autobiography, serialised in The Times, details how close he came to joining the Gunners after their famous Invincible season.
At the time, Carrick had been a highly rated youngster with West Ham, who had missed out on promotion back to the Premier League following their relegation from the top flight a year earlier. The Hammers needed money and with Carrick wanting to play in the Premier League again, a number of clubs registered their interest in signing him.
‘West Brom and Portsmouth came in for me in the summer of 2004 and Iain Dowie tried hard to get me to Crystal Palace,’ he writes. ‘I never spoke to any of them because none of it felt right.
‘Everton were interested and I spoke to David Moyes on the phone, but that just faded away. After a few weeks, Portsmouth came back in again. Portsmouth were a solid Premiership club. Harry Redknapp was there, and so was the chief executive Peter Storrie, who I knew from West Ham. I was well into the pre-season so, with time running out, I agreed to meet Harry.’
With a move to Portsmouth looking likely, Carrick was made aware of interest from Arsenal. Despite this, he agreed to a medical with Pompey the following day – only for Arsenal to make contact again, asking him to meet Arsene Wenger.
‘Within an hour I was sitting in the front room of Arsene Wenger’s house, pinching myself. Could this really be happening? Arsenal! Could I really be on the verge of signing for the Invincibles who’d just gone through the season unbeaten?
‘We talked for almost an hour about football. Wenger had the Community Shield at the weekend but was spending an hour with me, so surely he had to be interested in signing me? “Let’s get Cardiff out the way, and we’ll see you Monday,” Wenger said as we left.’
Arsenal beat Manchester United 3-1 to win the Community Shield that weekend, a young Cesc Fabregas impressing in midfield.
‘On the Sunday, I settled down at home in Theydon Bois, Epping, to watch Arsenal, my team to be, in the Community Shield against Manchester United. I saw that a kid, Cesc Fabregas, only 17, started in Vieira’s place.
‘Fabregas played a blinder but I didn’t think too much about the significance. I sat at home on Sunday night waiting for the call to arrange details of the next day. Arsenal! I couldn’t wait.
‘But I waited, and waited, and that call never came. The next day, I had to go into training at West Ham instead and, on the way, David phoned to say he’d had a call from Dein.
‘David relayed the gist of his message, like, “I’m sorry, the manager says we don’t need Michael. Fabregas is coming through like he is. Sorry, the deal’s off.” Fabregas’s performance changed Wenger’s mind about needing me.
‘I was totally devastated as I had my heart set on Arsenal and playing with all that talent. My head was gone. Arsenal had swayed me and I didn’t have a clue what I’d do now.’
What Carrick did do was sign for their north London rivals Tottenham before the end of that summer. He would spend two years there before moving to Old Trafford. The rest was history.