CASEMIRO’s return to fitness for Manchester United could help the team push back up the Premier League table.
The Red Devils have struggled for consistency since his hamstring injury back in November.
The midfielder made his return to the team in the 2-2 draw against Tottenham, however he was an unused substitute.
Casemiro was not the club’s first choice when he joined as Frenkie De Jong was the priority target.
He initially improved the team’s midfield but this season he was unable to replicate that form before his injury.
Now back from the treatment table and on the grass, Casemiro could be able to help manager Erik ten Hag get his team back into the Champions League places.
Here are three reasons why the Brazilian must start…
Building from the back
While Casemiro has at times been criticised for his perceived struggles when helping United to build out from the back he has not been helped by the players around him.
When the likes of Raphael Varane, Jonny Evans, Victor Lindelof or even Harry Maguire have played as the central midfielders in the team United have been passive in their ability to break pressure
and play out.
This has led to a huge emphasis on the midfielders, including Casemiro, to help United to build the attack from the first line.
The issue with this has been that the opposition have very quickly recognised this and made sure to press and cover the United midfield as they are building out from the back through short goal kicks.
Casemiro, however, is not the only important player who is returning from injury for United with Lisandro Martinez returning to play as the left-sided central defender.
The return of Martinez will take some of the pressure off of the United midfield when it comes to playing out from deeper positions.
Having a midfielder, like Casemiro, who is capable of breaking lines and progressing the ball, will allow Ten Hag to use his other creative midfield players in more advanced positions.
When the Danish international Christian Eriksen was picked to play in the recent league match against Spurs, for example, Ten Hag had said that he was in the side due to his great passing.
The issue was that Eriksen kept having to drop in deeper areas to get on the ball and look for passing options. Having players like Eriksen play in the middle third or even the final third will help United to break opposition teams down.
The key for United in using Casemiro effectively will be to ensure that he has runners around him who have the ability to play in all phases of the game to take advantage of the Brazilian’s experience.
Having the ability to break through the opposition’s defensive press and to attack with some pace and intensity is important for United.
The return of Casemiro will help with that.
Pressing and defending high
Given his extensive playing experience, both for Brazil and Real Madrid, Casemiro is a midfield player with excellent game intelligence and positional understanding.
This means that he is capable of defending high and in space when his side loses possession when they are attacking around the opposition area.
Casemiro is aggressive as a central midfielder and there are times that you will see him looking to jump and press extremely high in order to regain possession of the ball as close to the opposition goal as possible.
When this type of press is successful it can lead to goalscoring chances for your team.
The problem that Casemiro had before his injury, however, was that when he was moving high in this manner to press the ball he was doing so with no support around him.
This should allow the Brazilian to be aggressive against the ball in terms of moving forward and closing down aggressively.
The fact that Casemiro will have more support around him now that he is returning from injury will also mean that United are more comfortable in terms of committing players into attacking positions.
The wingers, advanced midfielders and even fullbacks will be capable of pushing forward in an attempt to overload the final third with Casemiro and Mainoo or Martinez behind the ball and able to cover space should the opposition counterattack.
Casemiro’s aggressive nature in terms of pressing will be well balanced with the players that United now have coming back into the team.
Reading of the game
While Casemiro is a midfield player who shows aggression against the ball he is also effective for United when the opposition are attacking higher up the pitch and he is forced to defend in deeper areas.
With a better structure around him, including the mobility and quickness of Mainoo in the midfield, we will see Casemiro more settled in his defensive role.
Before his injury, we often saw the Brazilian almost completely isolated in the United midfield as the United attack stayed high and the defence dropped deep.
This meant that Casemiro, who is not the most mobile at this stage of his career, often found himself outplayed as he struggled to effectively defend the spaces that were left around the midfield area.
Having Casemiro, who is intelligent with his positioning, sitting centrally waiting to break up opposition attacks, will allow the likes of Mainoo in particular to defend more aggressively against the ball.
The young English midfielder has excellent conditioning and mobility and he will be able to effectively cover the spaces around Casemiro, allowing the Brazilian to organise the United defensive structure around him.
A large part of the criticism that surrounded Casemiro in the opening months of this season came as a result of the mistakes that he was making in the midfield areas.
These mistakes, however, were often the result of the fact that the Brazilian midfielder was forced to defend in huge amounts of space when isolated. Having midfielders around him who can stop the
opposition from getting easy possession centrally will solve these issues quite effectively.
Casemiro can be an extremely effective presence in the United midfield across the rest of the season with his ability to organise the team’s shape around him.
United will at least be more difficult to play against.
Casemiro very much feels like the player who suffered the most, in terms of performance at least, with the injuries that United suffered to their squad and the lack of squad planning in the midfield.
The fact that the club have been able to take Kobbie Mainoo through from their academy to support Casemiro represents incredible timing and now the Brazilian should be able to show the form that led to so many plaudits across the 2022/23 season.
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