Michael Carrick has revealed that Arsene Wenger wanted to sign him for Arsenal ahead of the 2004/05 season until a standout performance by 17-year-old Cesc Fabregas in the Community Shield changed his mind.
In his autobiography Carrick, who was 23 at the time and playing for West Ham in the First Division, reveals that he was overwhelmed when David Dein informed his agent of the interest and immediately took up an invitation to meet Wenger at his home despite Harry Redknapp wanting him at Portsmouth.
An extract published in The Times (£) reveals the Frenchman quizzed the midfielder on his strengths and weaknesses for an hour and promised he’d get back to him once Arsenal had played Manchester United in Cardiff.
Arsene Wenger’s side, with a mulleted Fabregas pulling the strings in midfield (“He’s only seventeen, He’s better than Roy Keane “) went on to win the game 3-1 courtesy of strikes from Gilberto and Jose Antonio Reyes and an own goal by Mikael Silvestre.
Persuaded that the teenage Spaniard might have the quality to be a long-term replacement for Patrick Vieira – the Frenchman would leave Highbury for Juventus 11 months later – Wenger opted against a move for Carrick. Understandably, he was devastated. All the more so, given he then had to join Sp*rs.
“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. Fàbregas is coming through like he is. Sorry, the deal’s off.” Fàbregas’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.”
In fairness, life didn’t work out too badly for Carrick. He went on to win a shedload of trophies at Manchester United, who he joined after two years at White Hart Lane.
In June last year, Wenger paid tribute to Carrick on the occasion of his Manchester United testimonial, lamenting his decision.
“I give Michael my deepest congratulations for his testimonial,” Wenger told Arsenal.com. “I think he deserves it hugely.
“I would say personally I’m an admirer of his career, of his quality.
“One of my regrets is never having had him as a player because I think he was one of the greatest players in English football.”