How Manchester United have managed in their six games without Casemiro

A colleague from this parish received little notice from Erik ten Hag in Carrington two weeks ago when he mentioned Casemiro’s absences and suggested that “it’s fair to say that not all of them have gone particularly well.”

Ten Hag interrupted him: “We did very well without Casemiro: against Arsenal, two against Leeds, I remember other games too where we did very well without Casemiro and also at the beginning of the season.”

Those last seven words confirmed that the reference to Arsenal was the away game in January, when Manchester United lost and were dominated in midfield. Arsenal had 25 attempts to United’s meager six, scored 520 passes, 124 more than United, won three times as many corners and had nearly 60% possession. The 3-2 scoreline flattered United.

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Casemiro was in Manchester rather than London that day, having cynically fouled Wilfried Zaha four days earlier, a bookable flagrant offense and his fifth in the Premier League. That led to a one-match suspension. Thirteen days later, his confrontation with Crystal Palace midfielder Will Hughes was doubtfully ruled a red card offence, leaving Casemiro sidelined for three more games.

In the first, against Leeds at Old Trafford, United trailed 2-0 with half an hour to play, but drew level. In the rematch at Elland Road four days later, it wasn’t until Lisandro Martínez emerged to restore the team’s balance that United took control, breaking the tie on 80 minutes.

For Leicester’s visit, United fortuitously took the lead at half-time after a performance that Ten Hag called “rubbish”. He replaced Alejandro Garnacho with Jadon Sancho, whose impact was immediate. United won 3-0.

Ten Hag admitted that the addition of loan midfielder Marcel Sabitzer, whose full debut came in a draw with Leeds, had thrown United’s rhythm upside down. “They’re not robots, that’s the first thing, and we have to bring Sabitzer into a crucial position and then he has to know how to move at the times of the chances to create the right situations. It takes time, but we don’t have time.” , we have to win games, so everything has to go perfectly”.


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