Casemiro's struggles sum up Man Utd's ongoing midfield woes


When a team goes to Bayern Munich and scores three times, more often than not they'd leave the Allianz Arena with a positive result. Manchester United, though, returned to England with nothing to show for their efforts, however, as they succumbed to a 4-3 defeat. Rasmus Hojlund scored his first goal for the club on the night, which is a positive for United on a night where there were few. 


Funnily enough, Casmeiro scored United's other two goals in Germany as the Brazilian played his part in making the scoreline look a little more flattering on the Premier League side. The Brazilian's brace, however, masked what was a fairly sub-par showing from the former Real Madrid man. 


There's no denying that Casemiro was a transformative addition to the ranks last summer. United had been crying out for a number 6 for years, and, having muddled through the transfer window with nothing to show for their efforts, they signed arguably the best in the business late on in the summer. He didn't disappoint either. Only Bruno Fernandes (7.44) earned a better WhoScored rating than Casemiro (7.17) of all United players in the Premier League last season. 


In addition, only Fulham's Joao Palhinha (4.2) made more tackles per 90 than the 31-year-old (3.8) in England's top tier last term. He tore into midfields once he'd gained a head of steam, he was an opponent stopping, no-nonsense ball winning machine; Casemiro. He was a key reason behind United's top four finish as they successfully secured a Champions League return. 


And while United have started the season poorly, Casemiro's struggles have really been brought to the fore. That's not to say he is the sole reason behind a sub-par opening few weeks to the campaign - Raphael Varane's absence alongside Lisandro Martinez, coupled with the addition of a new goalkeeper, hasn't helped - but whereas Casemiro slotted in seamlessly for Erik ten Hag last season, he's looked sluggish and well off the pace this time around. 


In the first round of Champions League games, only Manuel Ugarte (6) was dribbled past more times than Casemiro (5). Jamal Musiala routinely glided past the latter like a hot knife through butter in Germany on Wednesday night. It's a metric topped by the Brazil captain in the Premier League (13) this season, and a tackle success rate of just 50% doesn't make for great reading. When your ball winner is being beaten by opponent as easily as Casemiro, then it's only a matter of time before you concede, which has certainly been the case for Ten Hag's side. 


Casemiro's struggles sum up Man Utd's ongoing midfield woes


Only Burnley (12) and Wolves (11) have conceded more goals than United (10) in the Premier League this season, while an average of 15.2 shots conceded per game ranks seventh in the division. United thought they had plugged their midfield gaps with the addition of Casemiro last summer. It seems as though they were only papering over the cracks, or using a band-aid on a wound when only a bandage would stem the flow. 


The issue now is how does Ten Hag successfully patch up this midfield? Casemiro and Christian Eriksen forged a solid central midfield partnership last season, but look a shadow of their former selves this time around. Mason Mount has struggled in a deeper role following his high profile addition from Chelsea, but once he returns to fitness, the Chelsea man may be required on the right flank rather than in the middle of the park. Sofyan Amrabat is yet to make an appearance following his arrival from Fiorentina, so is something of an unknown quantity in this United side. 


Even so, the Amrabat fans bore witness to for Morocco at the World Cup is very different to the club level Amrabat. The 27-year-old is far better on the ball than is given credit for, and he isn't just a player to win and recycle possession. Considering United look to control proceedings, the on-loan midfielder will help dominate opponents and while he can operate as a deep-lying ball winner, this isn't the best use of his talent. 


Ten Hag, though, will be aware of this. The pair worked together at FC Utrecht, and it's likely that Amrabat has been acquired, albeit on loan, as a midfielder to play alongside Casemiro rather than in place of. Kobbie Mainoo's impending return to fitness is a boost, the youngster having impressed in pre-season, but to have the 18-year-old essentially shoulder the central midfield burden for a team of United's stature would really be throwing the teenager in at the deep end. It's not necessarily back to square one for United in midfield, but having taken one step forward last season, they've since taken two back.  


The midfield issue a huge one for Ten Hag that needs rectifying, and quickly, if United are to quickly iron out their early-season issues. Casemiro's disappointing showings effectively sum up the problems for the club in the middle of the park and if they can't right their wrongs in a key area of the pitch, then United's Champions League return will be a short-lived one.

Casemiro's struggles sum up Man Utd's ongoing midfield woes