When Manchester United confirmed Casemiro’s €70m contract from Real Madrid, director of football John Murtaug hailed him as “one of the best midfielders in world football”. Manager Erik ten Hag hinted it was some kind of missing piece of the jigsaw – ‘cement between the stones’ – and revealed before the 2-1 win over rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford on August 22, the Brazil international was given a hero’s welcome.
But more than six weeks later, Casemiro has played just 82 minutes of the Premier League. He has yet to start a league game with his new team and when Ten Hag picked the team to face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, the 30-year-old was left on the bench.
As Pep Guardiola’s side tore United with frightening ease to advance 4-0 in the first half, television cameras moved to the bench to show Casemiro and former Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo wearing bewildered looks. There was some disbelief among United fans, too, about how one of the world’s most experienced defensive midfielders was allowed to watch such an important game – one that theoretically fits his strengths – from the sidelines.
Explaining his decision after the 6-3 defeat, Ten Hag said he wanted to maintain his faith in the team that won four consecutive league games after the disastrous start to the campaign against Brighton and Brentford, but the manner of the defeat made it clear that they got it wrong.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS and more (US)
“The day we signed him, we started winning and it’s about the team,” said the Dutchman. “The team is doing really well, not against Casemiro. It’s, in this case, Scott McTominay, he’s done really well in the team and then we’re going on tour. But I’m sure he’s going to be important for us in the long and short term. [Casemiro] He will find himself in the team but he has to come in a natural way.”
Ten Hag is set to make changes after the humiliating defeat to City and Casemiro is likely to start against Omonia FC for a Europa League clash in Cyprus on Thursday. But questions remain as to why the five-time Champions League winner had to wait for opportunities in the Europa League and not make a regular start.
That prompted former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand to suggest Casemiro may already be regretting his decision to swap Real Madrid for Manchester.
“I wonder what effect that would have on someone like him,” Ferdinand told his Five YouTube channel. “Yeah, he’s experienced and all, but he must be sitting there thinking, ‘Wow, I feel a little disrespectful here, given what I’ve done. “I’d be surprised if he didn’t feel that way.”
Some fans believe Casemiro was never Ten Hag’s choice. Not helped by Manchester United’s five major summer signings, he’s the odd player because he has no links with Ajax or the Eredivisie. Lisandro Martinez and Anthony played under Ten Hag at Ajax. Christian Eriksen, a former Ajax player, trained with the Dutch giants while recovering from cardiac arrest. Tyrrell Malacia was signed from Feyenoord and would have been on Ajax’s radar last summer had Ten Hag stayed in Amsterdam.
Ten Hag was desperate to get a sixth-tier midfielder and wanted another former Ajax player, Frenkie de Jong, but when the proposed €85m deal with Barcelona became too complicated, United turned their attention to Casemiro.
Sources told ESPN that Murtaug and manager Darren Fletcher were impressed with Casemiro’s desire to move, particularly against de Jong’s reluctance to leave Barcelona, but while Ten Hag has agreed to go after Casemiro – United managers can object to any transfer they disagree with. With – the Brazilian is a completely different player from De Jong, who wants to catch passes and carry the ball.
The switch between two completely different players has raised more questions about United’s transfer strategy, and most importantly indicates that Tin Hag is still trying to figure out what to do with the new midfielder.
“Every other team is really meticulous, you don’t see them walking around like pinball in the transfer market, from one to the other,” the former United defender Gary Neville told Sky Sports. “It’s De Jong, to [PSG’s Adrien] Rabiot and then Casemiro eventually signed an extraordinary contract that will cost the club £160m. When you’re desperate, you pay more than the odds, I guess.”
Gap Marcotti and Don Hutchison discuss whether Casemiro would fit in with Eric ten Hag’s playing style.
Those close to Casemiro insist that his move to United has nothing to do with money and that he will only earn more than he did at Real Madrid if he can help the club return to the Champions League. So, though, he has to be in the squad, and while Ten Hag frankly says it’s up to the player to prove he should play in the biggest matches, Ferdinand believes his continued absence will also become a problem for the coach as well. as a player.
“These are the subplots of what Tin Hag has to deal with,” the former England defender said. “That’s what management is all about, he has to manage that kind of player, that kind of ego, the pride that comes with these kinds of players.
“If you’re not playing, you’ll see a difference in the way they look at you now, and that’s what you have to manage. [Ten Hag] He didn’t have those Ajax issues with the players he had, he was very controlling, the lord of the universe there. Here you have a big ego to deal with and that’s the job when you come to a big club.”
Along with Ronaldo and two other players in need of a match, Casemiro is poised for a rare chance to impress in Nicosia this week, but the real test of his standing will come when Tin Hag picks his side to face Everton on Sunday.
It’s the type of game – fast and fierce, played in a hostile atmosphere at Goodison Park – that should suit the player with his expertise and composure. But this was also true of the Manchester derby and Casemiro had to watch most of it from the bench.