Casemiro deservedly got lots of plaudits for his impactful performance for Manchester United last season.
So much so that it’s easy to forget that, at the time he joined the club from Real Madrid, there was plenty of skepticism as to whether he really fit into Erik ten Hag’s tactical scheme. Could a defensive shield like Casemiro thrive in ten Hag’s system of high-pressing, quick-passing and ball retention?
Instead, Casemiro seemed more like a band-aid — a quick fix for a team that got ripped apart by Brentford in ten Hag’s second match in charge. It only seemed a matter of time before ten Hag dumped him from the lineup in favor the guy we all knew he had wanted all along— Frenkie de Jong.
But then Casemiro had to screw that up by showing off different facets of his game and proving his worth to the club. In games where he didn’t play last season, United missed the control, security and playmaking abilities he brought and looked like an inferior version of the team that finished third and won the League Cup.
So, perhaps it’s a testament to just how good and valuable Casemiro has been that ten Hag has decided that he needs a better backup for him.
Multiple outlets have reported that United have a deal in place for Fiorentina holding midfielder Sofyan Amrabat. The Moroccan international was one of the stars of the most recent World Cup and helped lead his team on a Cinderella run to the semifinals. He’s even been compared to none other than Gennaro “The Snarling Dog” Gattuso. That’s high praise, indeed.
However, United has already spent approximately £166 million (not including potential add-ons) this summer for Mason Mount, Andre Onana and Rasmus Højlund, and with Financial Fair Play possibly looming in the background, the club probably has to sell before it can buy anyone else.
Luckily, there are plenty of candidates for an exit, including Fred, Donny van de Beek, Harry Maguire, Eric Bailly and possibly Scott McTominay. With quite a few midfielders on the market, and a shock injury to Kobbie Mainoo, the latest academy prospect expected to become an important member of the first team, United could become rather shallow in midfield.
Amrabat would certainly help address United’s squad depth. Based on scouting reports, the Moroccan midfielder brings a lot to the table. Like Casemiro, Amrabat is good at breaking up play and covering ground, but he isn’t just a defensive shield. Amrabat is a good progressive passer who is good at dictating pace and retaining possession, important qualities for ten Hag’s preferred style of playing. Having played at Utrecht under ten Hag, Amrabat should be used to his former and possibly future manager’s demands.
He’s also a good ball carrier, which is another quality ten Hag wants from his players. Even when United were at their best last season, they still struggled to advance the ball through an opponent’s press, which led plenty of pundits to speculate that they could be back in for de Jong this summer.
Unfortunately, de Jong looks even more unlikely this year than he did last year. Hopefully, with Mount and possibly Amrabat joining, we’ll have some additional options to help us dribble through an opponent’s press.
Moreover, if Amrabat is willing to go to a club where he isn’t guaranteed to be first choice, then this deal could be a real bargain for United — especially if the reports are true that he could be had for a comparatively low price of £34 million. It shows that good players believe in ten Hag’s vision and think they can win trophies at the club. It’s been a long time since that’s been the case.
And hey, if he helps us weather another spell where Casemiro misses time because he decides to turn into Roman Reigns on opposing players, then all the better.