Erik ten Hag has already been told why he should not play Casemiro at centre-back for Manchester United.

December 23, 2022

Man United’s Brazilian performed admirably in the heart of the defence but some Real Madrid legends have already voiced their concerns..

With Harry Maguire ill and Manchester United’s first-choice centre-back pairing of Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane unavailable following the World Cup final, Erik ten Hag’s options in defence were limited.

Fortunately, as has been the case so often since he arrived from Spain, Casemiro was able to come to the rescue for United. Apart from one misplaced pass in the second half, Casemiro looked solid at the heart of Ten Hag’s back line – something his teammates also noticed.

The Brazilian’s performance at centre-back was lauded by his goalkeeper Martin Dubravka. The ‘keeper believes that Casemiro’s comfortable approach with the ball at his feet helped him slot seamlessly into the back line alongside Victor Lindelof.

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“I think he is very comfortable with the ball at his feet, so you could see that today,” Dubravka told MUTV following the game. “Some of the balls were very, very risky but he can handle the situation, he can handle the pressure. I think he did very well.”

While at first it was surprising to see the Brazilian in central defence, the 30-year-old has previously played in that position for his old team, Real Madrid. In 2017, Casemiro was tasked with the deeper defensive role in a draw with Valencia at the Bernabeu.

Like against Burnley, the defensive midfielder was praised for how well he slotted into the back but Real Madrid icons Fernando Hierro and Ivan Helguera explained why the decision should only be a one-off. Speaking to Marca, Hierro began: “It’s not easy to get used to the change overnight, as you need time and games. As a resource, Casemiro can play in that position, but it shouldn’t be a solution.”

Helguera agreed, added: “In his case it is clear that his position is that of a midfielder. What happens is that he is a physical beast, he has so much strength and power that if they put him in a central position for some matches he would learn to be a centre-back.”

While it is obvious that Casemiro is a talented footballer who could perhaps do a job wherever he is selected, the common theory is that his skill would be wasted playing at centre-back. United’s defensive troubles on Wednesday night are unprecedented and the need for the 30-year-old to fill in should just be a one-off.

However, while the Madrid icons would rather him not be in that position at all, Ten Hag may look at this more pragmatically. With a long season still to go, having players who can feature in more than one role could be vital and it would not be a surprise if the Dutchman reverts back to Wednesday night’s decision in the future.