Gary Neville has claimed that Manchester United should never have signed Casemiro despite naming the Brazilian his Premier League signing of the 2022/23 season last May. The Red Devils icon has made a staggering U-turn ahead of Casemiro’s expected exit this year after just two seasons at Old Trafford.
United recruited the 31-year-old in a £70million deal in something of a panic buy at the end of Erik ten Hag’s first summer transfer window.
Club figures had unsuccessfully pursued Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong for months before turning their attention to Casemiro’s desire for a fresh challenge away from Real Madrid.
It was always going to be a short-term signing, which garnered criticism, given the lofty transfer fee for a player at the latter stages of his prime years.
But Casemiro was a crucial figure in Ten Hag’s successful maiden season, acting as the anchor of his midfield as he secured third in the Premier League, reached the FA Cup final and lifted the Carabao Cup.
In May, Neville admitted that he had doubts about the five-year contract Casemiro signed as he entered the wrong side of 30. However, he hailed the Brazil captain as the Premier League’s best signing.
“I couldn’t think of a player having as big an impact on his team singularly,” Gary Neville said on Sky Sports.
“And I look at Manchester United’s season. Obviously, they think they’re going to finish in the top four if they finish the job this week, they’ve won the Carabao Cup, and they’re in the FA Cup final.
“I genuinely don’t think they’d be anywhere near the top four or doing what they’re doing in those competitions if it wasn’t for Casemiro. The impact he’s had on that team, he makes them 20-30 per cent better.”
He added: “That is an unbelievable [first] season, and he’s a big part of that. He brought experience into the dressing room, and he’s done a good job.”
Casemiro’s form fell off a cliff at the start of this campaign, though, sparking fears that United will only get one good season out of him before cashing in amid interest in Saudi Arabia this summer.
And now, eight months on from his previous comments, Neville has changed his tune. Wearing his owner’s hat, the 48-year-old has suggested United shouldn’t have sanctioned the signing at all.
“Coming in from an owner’s perspective, you employ a head of recruitment who you think is the best guy out there at spotting talent that will bring value to your club,” Neville explained on the Stick to Football podcast, brought to you by Sky Bet.
“You’ve got a sporting director equally, who will be thinking the same way – their loyalty is to the club and to make sure we win games.
“A manager’s job is purely to think about the immediate short term and getting results for himself. Casemiro is a perfect example of a short-term signing that is going to cost in the long term.
“That signing never should have gone through a good sporting director, a good owner, and a good head of recruitment. That signing should have never gone through. It should have been a veto.”