Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick were constants of a golden era at Man United… now the old team-mates and friends meet in the dugout as they seek similar success as managers
- Rooney’s first game in charge of Birmingham is a trip to Middlesbrough
- He will come up against a familiar face in ex-Man United colleague Carrick
- Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’
When Middlesbrough and Birmingham meet in the Championship on Saturday, there will be 35 trophies and 154 England caps in the respective dugouts.
Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick were two constants of a golden era for Manchester United, who swept all before them in the domestic game. Now both are trying to build similar reputations as managers.
Both were prodigies. Sporting a Newcastle shirt, the 13-year-old Carrick was interviewed on the BBC by Andi Peters in 1995, labelled ‘one of England’s future footballing stars.’
Rooney had been talked about in such glowing terms during childhood that when – at just 16 – he scored an iconic goal for Everton against Arsenal in October 2002, it was barely even a surprise.
Former England managing director Adrian Bevington worked closely with both men for more than a decade with the national team and predicts bright futures for them.
Former Manchester United team-mates Wayne Rooney (left) and Michael Carrick (right) will meet in the dugout as managers when Birmingham face Middlesbrough on Saturday
Rooney and Carrick were two constants in a golden era of success at Manchester United
The former Man United and England stars are seeking to build similar reputations as managers
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‘They have different personalities, but they were very easy to work with,’ said Bevington, a hugely experienced football operator who championed Carrick for a role in management after his caretaker spell with Manchester United last year. ‘Both had a really strong team ethic – selfless, responsible, not about personal glory.
‘Wayne naturally assumed a leadership role within the team from his mid-20s. What stands out is their natural popularity and the respect they generated among their peers. They’re likeable and polite but have massively high standards.’
The problem with management, though, is that your own footballing ability counts for nothing. The players of Boro and Birmingham cannot do what their managers could, and when Rooney said in his opening press conference that his players should ‘mirror me’, it raised a few eyebrows.
Carrick has already shown huge potential as a boss. When he took control at Boro last season, they were battling at the bottom. The 42-year-old promptly led them to the play-offs and, after a tricky opening this term brought about by the departure of key players, he guided them to four straight wins before the international break.
Carrick has an understated style – just as he did on the pitch. He has blown his top at the players before, but it is not a regular occurrence. He pays attention to the non-football staff, too: last Christmas and during a mid-season training camp in Edinburgh, Carrick organised evenings out for all. Even during Boro’s recent poor run, his demeanour at the club’s Rockcliffe training ground never altered.
Rooney raised a few eyebrows when saying his Birmingham players should mirror him
Carrick has an understated style and remained calm during a tricky start to the season
Rooney will not be afforded leniency by Birmingham’s owners as the club targets promotion
‘He is a very intelligent person,’ said Rooney of Carrick. ‘I spoke to him before he went to Middlesbrough last year, when the opportunity came up. I felt it would be a really good challenge for him and he has done a really good job.
‘When you know you want to go into coaching you start looking at the details of the game a bit more and at United we’d always be bouncing ideas off each other and asking each other questions.
‘I spoke to Michael last weekend. We are really good friends and so are our children. I played with him for many years and we lifted the FA Cup together as captain and vice-captain.’
This is Rooney’s chance to prove he has what it takes to succeed as a boss in English football. While he did a fine job to help keep the ship afloat during nearly two years in charge of crisis-torn Derby, the chaos behind the scenes meant he was never judged on results. He will not be afforded such leniency by Birmingham’s US owners.
John Eustace was surprisingly sacked with Blues sixth in the table but the players have responded positively to Rooney’s arrival. Early sessions have focused on pressing high, with emphasis on dominating possession and playing from the back. The goalkeeper will be expected to be involved in the build-up phase.
As was the case at Derby, where Liam Rosenior led training sessions, Rooney observes and steps in where he feels necessary. One of his strengths is man-management and one-on-one discussions with players, who appreciate his honesty and clarity. Coaches Ashley Cole and John O’Shea linked up with the squad for the first time on Wednesday, joining fellow staff members Carl Robinson and Pete Shuttleworth.
Shuttleworth worked with Rooney at Derby and DC United and is known as an excellent analyst. He will be heavily involved in sessions towards the end of the week, identifying opposition weaknesses and how to exploit them.
Birmingham is Rooney’s chance to prove himself after two years in charge of crisis-torn Derby
The appointment of Rooney followed the shock sacking of John Eustace earlier this month
‘John Eustace did a good job to get them where they are this season and last but football is football and I don’t know the ins and outs at Birmingham City,’ said Carrick. ‘When you see someone lose their job it’s tough but at the same time I’m delighted to see Wayne back in the game.
‘If he’d played up front all his career he’d have probably scored even more goals, but he sacrificed himself for the team. That summed him up and that’s why he’ll do well as a manager because it was never all about him.
‘You never know what opportunities come along but he’s got all the attributes to become a successful manager. He loves the game. He’s got a real football brain and he’s very intelligent. I’m not surprised he’s gone into management.’
Rooney’s final game as a player was at Middlesbrough – a 3-0 defeat for Derby in November 2020. As he embarks on his third crack at management one of England’s greatest will be hoping for a slightly happier trip to Teesside – even if it is at the expense of one of his best pals.
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