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What will new signing Casemiro bring to Man Utd as he prepares to make his Premier League debut at Southampton?
Manchester United have completed the signing of defensive midfielder Casemiro from Real Madrid, but how will he improve Erik Ten Hag’s side?
And much is expected of the 30-year-old, not least because of the hefty transfer fee involved. He arrives with a reputation, too, and an enviable history of success: three La Liga titles and five Champions League wins is an extraordinary achievement and he will hope to add more silverware in the coming years.
To do so, though, Casemiro will have to inspire a significant improvement at Old Trafford. He joins a team that has looked disjointed and bereft of confidence since the campaign began, though Monday night’s win over Liverpool was more promising for Erik ten Hag and his players.
The 4-0 loss at Brentford hasn’t been forgotten, but the Liverpool victory and the signing of Casemiro should go some way to improving matters. His experience, composure and steel in midfield could be transformative for United, and if he performs as he did consistently in Madrid, a problem position will have been addressed.
Many United fans have bemoaned the limitations of Scott McTominay and Fred as a midfield pivot. Ten Hag attempted to solve that by playing Christian Eriksen in a deep-lying role at Brentford but the Dane looked uncomfortable and out of place, particularly when pressed by the home side.
Casemiro should have no such problems. He has, for years at Real Madrid, been the starting point for attacking moves, often breaking up play and picking out a more advanced teammate. And he is an accomplished, if not especially dynamic, passer of the ball: his completion rate for Los Blancos last season was 86%.
It may be that Ten Hag opts to utilise Casemiro higher up the pitch in possession, in which case his off the ball attributes will be even more important. He was in the top five for successful tackles in La Liga last season (64) and in the top ten for successful pressures of the ball (179).
Crucially, Casemiro will become the pillar, the foundation of this United team, a sturdy presence in the centre that was clearly lacking against Brentford and Brighton. The Red Devils also continue to be linked with Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong, who alongside Casemiro could suddenly turn the midfield from ordinary to exceptional.
The Brazilian has cited the possibility of a new challenge as the main reason for the move, and a challenge is certainly what he will get.
"I spoke to my agent after the Champions League final as I had the feeling that I was coming to the end of my cycle here," he said.
"It was the hardest decision of my life but I'm excited about what's ahead of me. I want to face new challenges, know a different league, a different country and a different culture.
"I'm going to the biggest team in the world that can compete with the greatness of Real Madrid, although now it doesn't."
Casemiro is a winner and has been playing for Europe’s most successful team for close to a decade, so that in itself should give United a lift.
On the surface, he may not seem like a player particularly suited to Ten Hag’s ‘total football’ style of play. That might mean some slight tweaks are required on the part of the Dutchman, but if Casemiro helps to address the glaring issues in the team it will be £60m well spent.
Short-termism or not, Casemiro could have a big impact, starting with the trip to Southampton on Saturday.
You can watch every minute of Southampton vs Manchester United from 11.30am (12.30pm KO) on Saturday 27 August, live on BT Sport 1 and BT Sport Ultimate on TV.