Casemiro is giving Manchester United something Real Madrid never knew he had.

January 26, 2023

Man Utd have all but booked their place in the Carabao Cup final after a 3-0 win at Nottingham Forest and it was another fine performance from Casemiro…

On Sunday it was felt that Manchester Unitedmissed the destruction of Casemiro, but at the City Ground last night they were reminded that all for his qualities as a defensive midfielder, he does still have some of that Samba blood in him.

The quality of the 30-year-old’s passing and his contributions to United’s attack, as well as its defence, has been one of the biggest surprises since his £70million move from Real Madrid. In the Spanish capital his role was simple: stop opposition attacks and then give the ball to Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.

But all this time the Brazilian was hiding his light under a bushel. Since moving to Manchester and being handed more responsibility to craft attacks as well as stop them, he has been a revelation.

Casemiro’s quality as a defensive midfielder has never been in doubt. His tackling and ability to read a game and intercept passes have been superb for United, but his eye for a pass and usually a forward one at that have been just as transformative to the team.

Maybe the best example of his ability to do both came at Goodison Park earlier this season, when he stuck out a long leg to tackle Alex Iwobi and then immediately played a through ball that set Cristiano Ronaldo through on goal. He’s shown it in this competition as well, coming on against Charlton in the last round and putting on a cameo full of incisive, forward passes.

It was a similar story at the City Ground. United’s first goal owed plenty to the calmness under pressure of Lisandro Martinez and the brilliance of Marcus Rashford, but Casemiro connected them. He found space to receive the ball and then immediately looked up and spotted the room Rashford had. It was the Brazilian’s fifth assist of the season, a tally he has never bettered in his nine seasons with Real Madrid.

He could have entered new territory when United doubled the lead but the record books will deny him an assist for a goal he created. He picked the ball up near the centre circle, shrugged off Gustavo Scarpa as he broke clear and then threaded a pass inside to Antony. His volley was saved by Wayne Hennesey, but Wout Weghorst was there to fire in the rebound. It was a goal fashioned by Casemiro.

The evening on the banks of the River Trent had begun with United’s last truly great defensive midfielder lamenting his heir’s importance to the side. Roy Keane was right to say Casemiro is the most important player under Erik ten Hag, but because he sets the tone as well as breaking up the play.

United didn’t just lack his leadership and ability to interrupt the flow of a game at the Emirates, but his calmness in possession and that skill to get his team moving in the right direction. He is the beating heart of his team already.

The serial winner also epitomises the changing mentality in this squad. Ten Hag wants more from them in that department, but Casemiro doesn’t lack for the experience of winning trophies. The Carabao Cup won’t feature highly in his impressive resume, but thanks to his efforts at the City Ground, he can look all but look forward to a Wembley date in a month’s time.