How Will Manchester United Fare Without Casemiro?
When referee Anthony Taylor went to examine the monitor at the side of the field during Sunday afternoon’s Premier League match between Manchester United and Southampton, it appeared as though all of Old Trafford held its collective breath.
In order to determine if the yellow card Casemiro received for his tackle on Carlos Alcaraz of Southampton should have been escalated to a red one, the game’s VAR, Andre Marriner, asked Taylor to see video footage.
Although the Brazilian may have made the initial contact with the ball and ultimately won it, Alcaraz’s shin was also struck by the studs on the Brazilian’s right boot.
Taylor overruled the yellow card and issued Casemiro a red after determining that this tackle constituted serious foul play.
The Brazilian appeared upset as he walked slowly back to the tunnel while obscuring his face with his hands and laying his head on teammate Antony’s shoulder.
His desperation was echoed by the United supporters in the crowd, who had grown to regard him as their team’s most important player this season.
This season, Casemiro has given United a new sense of presence and control, and his performances have propelled them into the top four of the table, helped them win the Carabao Cup with a goal against Newcastle in the final, and kept them in the latter stages of both the FA Cup and the Europa League.
With just a brief check at the numbers, it is quite clear what Casemiro has added to United. With the Brazilian, United has a 76% victory percentage; but, in the seven games he has missed, that percentage has dropped considerably to just 43%.
United scores almost the same number of goals per game with Casemiro as they do without him (1.9 vs. 1.7), but the true difference can be seen in the influence he has on United’s defense (0.9 vs. almost double that (1.7) without him).
However, due to the fact that the Brazilian’s red card at the weekend was his second of the season after the one he received against Crystal Palace last month, United will have to make do without him for their next four domestic games, which include matches against Fulham in the FA Cup and Newcastle, Brentford, and Everton in the Premier League.
It constitutes a significant loss at a pivotal point in the season, especially as United lacks a clear replacement, raising questions about how they will manage.
The most obvious choice to step up is Scott McTominay, who was added to United’s midfield against Southampton just after Casemiro was dismissed.
The Scottish player did well for United and helped prevent Southampton from gaining an advantage.
McTominay can use his physical prowess and athleticism to create a wall in the middle of the field, but he lacks the composure and passing skills necessary to perform the position to its full potential.
When Casemiro received a three-game suspension last month, Ten Hag went to Marcel Sabitzer, an Austrian midfielder he had signed on loan from Bayern Munich at the close of the January transfer window.
In February, United earned seven out of a possible nine points thanks to Sabitzer’s performance against Leeds at Old Trafford, both at home and away, and against Leicester City. The Austrian has much more touches of the ball during games than McTominay and is more at ease with it.
Although Sabitzer may be more of a box-to-box midfielder, he could undoubtedly provide United with a short-term option. It is unclear when he will be able to play again because he has missed the last two games due to injury.
The 17-year-old Kobbie Mainoo is another option, but with only 10 minutes of Premier League play, he might be too risky.
Without Casemiro, it has become abundantly clear that United look vulnerable, and their midfield needs to be strengthened in the summer. However, before that happens, it is hoped that they can navigate the upcoming four domestic matches with little damage.