Manchester United have just one fit centre back at the club, but Casemiro’s performance against Burnley should go some way to easing Erik ten Hag’s selection crisis.
Raphael Varane sustained an injury against Argentina in the World Cup Final and is not expected to return until United’s match against Wolverhampton Wanderers on New Year’s Eve.
Meanwhile Lisandro Martinez is still away celebrating his country’s triumph in Qatar and is unlikely to return until the trip to Molineux either.
And then there is Axel Tuanzebe, who has had an injury-hit campaign. While the academy graduate is back in training, he has not been deemed ready for action by his manager.
That leaves Victor Lindelof as the only fit senior central defender in United’s first team squad, with Casemiro stepping into an unfamiliar role at Old Trafford yesterday to partner him.
And the Brazilian was immense in his performance, oozing class on the ball while being an immovable object off it.
He interrupted Burnley possessions on ten occasions, putting his body on the line and exploiting his ball-winning capabilities to great effect.
Much of Burnley’s play was on the ground and Casemiro’s proficiency one-on-one against attackers was a huge factor in limiting Vincent Kompany’s side to just one shot on target throughout the match.
But it was his ability on the ball really shone through, with the former Real Madrid man playing a number of defence splitting passes.
His passing was reminiscent of Paul Scholes at times, with his drilled technique difficult for Burnley to defend against and precise enough to find teammates at great distances.
The Brazil star completed nine accurate long balls and was particularly good at finding United’s wide attackers in space.
With 126 touches, Casemiro was the foundation of all of the Red Devils’ attacks, and his pass-forward-first mentality was a far cry from some of the laborious build up play that a few of United’s other centre backs have been guilty of in the past.
His more direct approach allowed the team to catch Burnley cold on the counter on a number of occasions, which was especially impressive given the Championship team’s discipline in retreating into their defensive shape at speed.
There were a couple of times where Casemiro dropped behind his defence a little too hastily, and on another day that might have led to chances against a team willing to go in behind and exploit an offside line.
However those errors went unpunished and are to be expected of a midfielder drafted in to play at the heart of defence on short notice.
What Casemiro brought to the backline will surely be encouraging for United fans and should certainly soften the blow that the absences of Varane, Martinez, and Maguire will bring.
(All stats via SofaScore)
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