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Why is Casemiro not starting for Manchester United? Welcome to Erik Ten Hag's revolution

10:09 GMT+3 17/09/2022
Casemiro Manchester United Sociedad 2022-23 frustrated
Scott McTominay is keeping the Brazilian out on merit - much to the dismay of fans

The message to Casemiro is clear - he is going to have to earn his place in this Manchester United team. The five-time Champions League-winner may have arrived at Old Trafford to great fanfare and with a £60million price tag - but shifting Scott McTominay is proving more of a challenge than many of the midfielders he has dominated on the pitch in such a distinguished career.

He is the latest to realise reputation counts for little in Erik ten Hag’s United revolution.

And rightly so for a club that has signed one super star after another during nine years of failure post Sir Alex Ferguson.

This is a new era under their Dutch manager - and in only a few months in the job, he has proven he is prepared to take the difficult decisions. GOAL takes a deeper look at the situation.

  • GFX Casemiro, Scott McTominay

    Challenge

    Casemiro need only have spoken to former Real teammates, Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane, to know the situation he would be walking into.

    Both have been sidelined in Ten Hag’s early reign. Both have been forced to work their way into his plans - with Ronaldo still yet to fully convince, even after getting his first goal of the season against Sheriff Tiraspol on Thursday night.

  • Harry Maguire Manchester United Brentford 2022-23

    Consequences

    Ten Hag is running a meritocracy. Perform for him and he will stand by you. Fail - and there will be consequences, be it a 13km run in the blistering heat or a spell out of the team.

    He is a man who was bold enough to sit Real and France legend, Varane, on the bench for the first two games of the season.

    He was then brave enough to drop his captain, Harry Maguire, and another England international in Luke Shaw after back-to-back defeats.

    Ronaldo was left out, recalled and then dropped again.

    Aaron Wan-Bissaka - at £50million - has barely had a kick.

  • Statement

    Ten Hag is making an important statement by not thrusting Casemiro straight into his starting XI.

    McTominay has responded well after a traumatic start to the season.

    Since coming on at half time against Brentford, when United were already 4-0 down, he has become a mainstay.

    And he is in the team on merit - operating as an impressive foil to Christian Eriksen, with his energy complimenting the Dane’s control.

    To drop him as soon as Casemiro walked through the door would have been the wrong message to send to a dressing room that Ten Hag is only in the early days of developing a relationship with.

  • Frenkie De Jong pre-season Barcelona 2022

    De Jong

    Yet the expectation is that Casemiro will become a pivotal part of United’s system. He may not be the midfielder Ten Hag so desperately wanted to sign in the summer - Frenkie de Jong - but the position of No6 was seen as absolutely critical to his plans.

    Casemiro was not his first choice - but he was very much in United’s thinking throughout the transfer window, with interest expressed months before the deal was eventually completed and the pursuit of De Jong abandoned.

    There are those who believe he more closely fits United’s needs than the Barcelona midfielder as the ball-winner they have lacked.

    Ten Hag sees him as pivotal to his system as both a destroyer - but also a link between defence and midfield. There is hope he can develop an understanding with Eriksen to compare to Real’s legendary midfield trio of the Brazilian, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

  • Focal-point

    That may be wishful thinking, but United’s midfield now has more craft than in recent memory, with Eriksen and Casemiro both comfortable taking the ball in tight spaces.

    Eriksen, in particular, has become the focal-point in only a short space of time as the player who dictates the tempo.

    In only limited appearances, Casemiro has also shown signs of the control Ten Hag wants him to bring to the team.

    His link with Eriksen has the potential to allow United to dominate the ball in the manner of Europe’s top sides. For all of McTominay’s endeavour, he does not share those qualities.

    Likewise, the arrival of Eriksen has highlighted the deficiencies in Fred’s game. While the Brazilian is a willing presser of the ball, his use of it is nowhere near up to the standard Ten Hag from a team he wants to dominate possession and unlock deep-lying defences.

  • Casemiro Manchester United 2022-23

    Fight

    Still, it has been a slow burn from Casemiro so far, with just four substitute appearances and one start - that coming in a much-changed side against Real Sociedad, which resulted in United’s only defeat in their last six games.

    That also justifies Ten Hag’s reluctance to change a winning team.

    In that one start, Casemiro’s control was understated - but it gave a glimpse of the influence he will bring to United.

    His constant willingness to drop deep and pick up possession offers an outlet to defenders Ten Hag wants to play out from the back.

    His anticipation to cut out danger was also in evidence against the Spanish side, while his tenacity in the tackle fits in with the fighting qualities Ten Hag has added with the signings of Lisandro Martinez and Tyrell Malacia.

  • Questions

    If United lost the one game Casemiro started, it was more as a result of the peculiar decision to play Fred as a No10, or Ronaldo’s lack of sharpness at the point of attack - not to mention a highly-contentious penalty.

    But it was still something of a surprise to see the 30-year-old on the bench against Sheriff - and that has prompted fresh questions about his position.

    Now it is up to him to answer them on the pitch.