Erik ten Hag has a Casemiro problem at Manchester United. Casemiro has been brilliant for Man United but there is a problem Erik ten Hag must address.
No summer signing has had as much of a positive impact on their new club this season as Casemiro.
Not even Erling Haaland and his freakish ability to stick the ball in the back of the net has been as transformative for a side’s fortunes as Casemiro. Many turned their noses up when Manchester United spent £60million on a player aged 30 but he has already shown he is worth every penny.
Not only has the Brazilian lynchpin done all of what was expected of him at Old Trafford by adding the long-missed defensive resilience and leadership in the middle of the park, but he has even exceeded the loftiest of expectations of a five-time Champions League winner.
Perhaps he never had to do as much on the ball in Madrid thanks to having two generational talents in Luka Modric and Toni Kroos on either side of him so it wasn’t quite appreciated just how good he is, but Casemiro’s contributions at the opposite end of the pitch have been a delightful sᴜʀᴘʀɪsᴇ.
Whether it’s coming in clutch with important goals, galivanting forward to join in ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋs or his excellent use of the ball with a remarkable range of passing, the 31-year-old has revolutionised the way United build up play and ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋ opponents.
Erik ten Hag has developed a lot of players in his few months in charge to the point where several are now crucial to the team. Losing any of Marcus Rashford, Lisandro Martinez, Bruno Fernandes or Raphael Varane would be a significant blow but none more so than Casemiro.
We’ve already seen it in action. There was mass ᴘᴀɴɪᴄ when he picked up a silly 10th booking of the season which ruled him out of the crucial match against Arsenal and though United applied themselves well, they were outplayed and deservedly beaten at the Emirates.
Then Casemiro was unfortunate to pick up a further three-game ban after his peculiar red card against Crystal Palace and United were far from their best in those matches. The winning mentality Ten Hag has instilled helped them to still claim an impressive seven points, but in every one they started poorly and had to ғɪɢʜᴛ their way back into the games.
With him back in the side, United defeated La Liga leaders Barcelona in a ᴛʜʀɪʟʟɪɴɢ Europa League encounter and then comfortably bested Newcastle in the Carabao Cup final, with Casemiro grabbing the opening goal.
He was handed a well-deserved rest for Wednesday’s FA Cup tie against West Ham but United were again well off their high standards without their talisman. Even in a match presumably earmarked as a day off, Ten Hag felt he needed to introduce Casemiro at half-time and United eventually wrestled back control and managed to come from behind to win.
It was yet another galvanising victory that increases the feeling of United becoming a juggernaut once more. Unstoppable. But that’s increasingly only the case when Casemiro is on the pitch.
He’s become so important to the team. Almost too important. Though Scott McTominay has his uses, the drop-off in quality is so stark that United can’t play the same way with him on the pitch. Fred has picked up his game but remains inconsistent as well.
It’s becoming a problem as Ten Hag can’t rest Casemiro as much as he’d like in ғᴇᴀʀ of a slip-up which will only increase the possibility of injury and fatigue as he gets older. It’s a problem that will have to be solved in the summer transfer window.
Whether it be a return to the Frenkie de Jong pursuit, an attempt to convince Jude Bellingham to join or someone not yet on the radar, United need another world-class midfielder to help the one they already have.