Casemiro to Man United is the right player at the wrong time for a panicked Red Devils club lacking vision

There’s no denying that Erik ten Hag has a world-class player in Casemiro at Manchester United who will instantly make the Red Devils a better club.

Man United, under new management, looked terrible for the start of the Premier League season, to put it bluntly. In dire need of high-quality reinforcements in the central area of ​​the pitch, the club made their move and brought in what is arguably the best defensive midfielder in the world.

It was’nt easy. It took a huge transfer fee, as well as a huge salary offer, to convince the Brazilian to leave his home at Real Madrid for the struggling Premier League side. According to The Athletic’s David Ornstein, the Brazilian has received “a competitive offer” that makes him “one of the top earners” at the club, with “significant performance-related incentives”.

While Casemiro’s arrival is short-term laudable and fills the obvious leaks in Man United’s hull, a closer look at the move reveals a more damning prospect. This transfer can be described as little more than a panicky response to despair at recent results, rather than a long-term vision to build the club back to Sir Alex Ferguson’s heights.

MORE: A full rundown of salaries, fees and other key figures surrounding Casemiro’s move to Man United

Casemiro fills a huge hole at Man United

There is little to dispute that Casemiro’s arrival in a vacuum is a massive upgrade for Manchester United both on and off the field at a time when the club is teetering on a dangerous precipice.

The Red Devils have lost their first two Premier League games for the first time since 1992, including a 4-0 win over Brentford that set off alarm bells across Manchester. The defeats saw catastrophic flaws in the Manchester United squad that lit up like a Christmas tree for the entire world.

One of those key shortcomings is defensive midfield, arguably the club’s most pressing hole to fill.

Fred has been a disaster since arriving at Old Trafford in 2018. Of all Premier League midfielders, the Brazilian made the ninth most passes in his team’s own half last season, and did so with significantly fewer touches than anyone above him on the list. His 40.48 per cent tackling success rate was the seventh lowest of any midfielder in the Premier League on at least 20 appearances and had a significantly higher volume than anyone above him on the list.

His counterpart, Man United youth product Scott McTominay, showed tenacity and drive when he showed up at Old Trafford in 2017 but has since declined significantly. Last season he was beaten once a game at dribbling, won only 51% of his tackles on the ground and suffered from similar ailments as Fred mentioned earlier. The one thing McTominay has consistently done well is match balls in the air.

Enter Casemiro, who brings a number of qualities to Manchester United that they sorely lack. Last season in Spain’s top flight, he ranked third among midfielders with at least 50 attempts with a 64.6 percent tackle success rate, with former teammate and tackle specialist Eduardo Camavinga being one of the two above him.

Leadership and pedigree speak for themselves of his ability on the field. A five-time Champions League winner and three-time Spanish champion, Casemiro not only brings a winning mentality but also a much-needed level of success that Man United’s side as a whole lack. Ornstein’s report said United executives are “notoriously drawn to Casemiro’s character and professionalism, as well as his elite defensive midfielder pedigree”.

Casemiro’s transfer couldn’t have been worse timed at Man United

In a vacuum, Casemiro’s arrival at Manchester United is a massive improvement over the current midfielders.

The keyword there is “in a vacuum”. Unfortunately for Manchester United, football isn’t played in a vacuum and neither is the football transfer business.

Casemiro is undoubtedly a European great but he turns 31 in February which means his window for contributions at the highest level is closing. A club in need of a complete overhaul, does Manchester United really think a 31-year-old superstar defensive midfielder will still be at the top of his game three years from now when the overhaul is hopefully nearing completion?

Bringing in a player of Casemiro’s caliber and age is a move a club would take when defensive midfield is the last hole to fill and the squad is poised to get back close to the top of the Premier League League and the Champions League.

But this is where Manchester United sits, a team that not only needs defensive midfield, but also needs at least five other positions. This is a club with such lofty goals that realistically it will require upgrades at left-back, right-back, centre-back, left wing and forward. Add a couple of more capable midfielders too and this squad is in dire need of a complete rebuild.

This makes injecting money into Casemiro nothing more than a panic buy, which may see short-term improvements but will do little to restore United to the long-term place at the top of Europe that fans so desperately crave.

MORE: A closer look at why the Glazer family is to blame for Man United’s struggles

Does Casemiro fit into Erik ten Hag’s system at Man United?

If Erik ten Hag was looking for a player who controls distribution and plays from the back in his Total Football system, Casemiro doesn’t quite fit that profile.

While Casemiro’s range of passing techniques varies quite well, being adept at both long ball and square passes, he was never an exclusive distributor at Real Madrid.

Casemiro is actually more of a defensive midfielder than a possession distributor. At Real Madrid, the Brazilian was flanked by possession wizards Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, who shouldered the brunt of progressive responsibility. Using the advanced metric xGBuildup, which calculates the expected goals of the resulting shots that a player somewhere helped build, we can see how those players performed as a team progressed.

For Kroos and Modric over the last four full seasons, they register xGBuildup/90 numbers of 0.48 and 0.52 respectively, while Casemiro scores just 0.41.

Another La Liga player, Frenkie de Jong, fits that mentality much better. The Barcelona man, who Man United have been chasing after all summer, is making his mark much more as a distributor who can play as a lone anchor in midfield. So why did Man United change course and dump a huge sum of money on a completely different type of player? Sure, a move for De Jong seemed increasingly problematic, but does it require a complete change of course?

Well, with Casemiro on board, who will ten Hag put in charge of linking defense and attack while Manchester United are in possession? Will he drop Bruno Fernandes deeper into a progressive role and risk neutering some of his skills in the final third? Will he ask Casemiro to play a different role than when he was at Real Madrid and risk tasking the Brazilian with tasks he doesn’t enjoy doing? Or will he play another midfielder alongside Casemiro, like his Brazilian team-mate Fred or the underutilized Donny van de Beek, to take on that responsibility?

Anyhow, it’s hard to imagine how Casemiro fits into Manchester United’s mold, which calls into question their intention to rake in millions for a world-class player.

MORE: Man United latest transfer news for summer window 2022

A worrying transfer trend continues at Manchester United

The arrival of Casemiro is just another example of a toxic transfer mentality under Glazer’s ownership.

Instead of spending time and effort identifying goals for long-term sustainability, the club has a habit of picking the biggest names and dumping gargantuan fees on well-known stars at their market value. Essentially, they buy incumbents with small windows of excellence and set them to failure with massive transfer fees.

Examples of this mentality are Paul Pogba, Harry Maguire, Angel Di Maria and Raphael Varane. The only significant transfer in recent years to buck this trend is Bruno Fernandes, whom United identified as a positive addition to the squad and for whom he did not overpay. Consequently, he currently sits at Old Trafford as one of the few players who can say he has lived up to the hype.

Anyone who has watched even a few Champions League games could tell you that Casemiro was a star. The Brazilian was the best player on the pitch in the season-opening UEFA Super Cup, dominating Eintracht Frankfurt and repelling Germany’s normally effective counterattacks.

It doesn’t take an effective scouting department to spend €80m on Casemiro. All you need is a big wallet.

What requires a bit more research is building a roster that meshes and spends money wisely on players who excel well with the roster’s tactical approach and who age well with the long-term development of the team.

For example, a scouting department would have identified 23-year-old Celta Vigo midfielder Fran Beltran as a player who would not only fill in the gaps at Manchester United brilliantly, but also cost significantly less and be viable both now and at Old Trafford .

Last season in the Spanish top flight, Beltran showed a campaign for the ages in midfield. His 73.21 percent tackle success rate was the third best of any La Liga midfielder with at least 20 games played and a volume higher than anyone in the top 20. His 64 missed passes in his own half ranked him well behind the likes of Casemiro , Sergio Busquets and Mikel Merino despite the same volume. Beltran had the seventh most recoveries of any LaLiga midfielder and handed out passes with a 91% success rate. The only thing he needs to improve is aerial duels.

Beltran’s contract was due to expire in the summer of 2023, leaving him exposed to a large cash offer. However, neither Man United nor any other club called and Celta Vigo extended the Spaniard until the summer of 2026, making it much more difficult to untie him from the La Liga side now. It seems that 80 million euros would probably have been enough.

Manchester United may have found a world-class talent to enhance the squad, but it’s hard to deny that any semblance of a coherent, long-term vision would have revealed far better ways to spend the wads of cash that were put into Casemiro’s arrival.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *