Erik Ten Hag Has Found An Unexpected Manchester United Undroppable
If you’d have asked 100 Manchester United supporters what the club’s biggest need was ahead of the most recent transfer window, you could have guaranteed that 99 of them would have given you the same answer.
United’s need to recruit a defensive-midfielder this summer just gone was blindingly obvious as soon as the shutters came down on the summer window last year, such was the need to improve that area of the team.
It was a weakness that plagued the club throughout last season, so much so that it became an obvious issue to even those who don’t support or watch United religiously.
The Reds were regularly beaten up and spat back out in midfield, being overrun and destroyed in most games they played, not least against the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City.
It was somewhat surprising that United spent much of the summer going after Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong and not a seasoned destroyer who would have added a degree of aggression and nastiness to their play.
After discovering that their hopes of signing De Jong were going nowhere, despite more than 100 days of chasing his signature, United turned their attentions to alternative options and stumbled across a player who ticked just about every box that needed filling for a midfielder of the right type.
Casemiro, of course, was the man in question, joining United from Real Madrid last month for an initial fee of £60million, despite the fact he turns 31 next February.
Considering United had lost their opening two Premier League fixtures up to the point of Casemiro’s arrival, it was a statement signing and one that should have been considered a major coup.
Since he was unveiled as United’s fourth signing of the summer, Erik ten Hag’s side have won every Premier League fixture they have fulfilled.
A world-class defensive midfielder in the building and an upturn in results, it can’t be a coincidence, surely? Perhaps not if the Brazilian had actually started any of those four matches.
More than a month after swapping Madrid for Manchester, Casemiro is still awaiting his first league start in United colours, with his only chance from the first whistle coming in the Europa League defeat to Real Sociedad earlier this month.
The United academy graduate, so often a scapegoat for United’s recent failings, has looked like a different animal in recent weeks, particularly in the 3-1 win over Arsenal three weeks ago.
He has been one of United’s best players in recent weeks and there is no reason why he should be automatically dislodged from the team just because Casemiro is waiting in the wings.
As Ten Hag has proven in recent weeks, although it’s an old-school football cliché, there is no need to fix something that isn’t broken.
McTominay has justified his inclusion in recent weeks and Casemiro will be forced to wait, although there is a general perception that he will, eventually, dislodge the 25-year-old from the team and become part of Ten Hag’s strongest midfield.
It is not only United who have benefitted from McTominay’s recent form; Scotland have, too.
The midfielder has starred for his country over this current international break, playing key roles in their back-to-back Nations League wins over Ukraine and the Republic of Ireland.
Against Ireland, McTominay bossed proceedings in midfield, boasting an 89 per cent passing accuracy, winning seven of his 11 ground duels, producing one key pass and covering just about every blade of grass possible.
He is playing with a smile again and Ten Hag deserves enormous credit for changing the general opinion on the midfielder’s importance.