It often feels like goals from set pieces are scored on the training field. Although Casemiro’s volley from a Christian Eriksen free kick came from Carrington, it was made by Erik ten Hag in midfield as part of a recruitment strategy that had failed Manchester United too many times in previous transfer windows.
There was some symbolism, but their impact was obvious regardless of how they were combined. Through Marcus Rashford’s performance, the way a disciplinarian has raised standards, or simply the results, Ten Hag’s transformation of the club can be seen. After two games, United are pointless, and the manager is now being asked if his team is a title contender. Or, it could be observed in the sense that they once more employ a midfield.
which, admittedly, ought to be assumed, particularly at elite levels. However, United have been found to be lacking in this area in recent years. They defeated Bournemouth one year after Wolves’ home defeat at Old Trafford marked the start of 2022. Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho were the classier midfield pairing that day. It was also not a new tale. At that point, Nemanja Matic got going by disrupting a well-known duo. Fred and Scott McTominay are honest judges who, both on their own and as the much-maligned “McFred” partnership, contributed significantly to the United cause. However, despite his Brazil international status and a price tag of £50 million, the latter was not a midfield general. When combined with the Scot, many teams in the middle of the table would contend that their midfield was superior to United’s.
Now not. Ten Hag has still built from the middle, even though he has shown pragmatism by strengthening his team’s weakest area and opportunism by signing Eriksen on a free transfer. Even though United had a lot of money and were able to pay £60 million for Casemiro and his high wages, he has still built from the middle. Although the division of duties is not as straightforward as that, Eriksen and Casemiro have contributed style and substance. The Dane is persistent and long-lasting: He does more than just play games.
The Brazilian midfielder is much more than just a defensive one. Casemiro is also a creator due to his passing range; His first goal against Bournemouth demonstrated his scoring potential. He provides authority. He may recall the era of midfield all-rounders who appeared to be capable of performing the majority of tasks to a high standard.
Each has provided a level of piercing passing that Fred and McTominay only occasionally did. This was Eriksen’s sixth assist of the Premier League season: Since Kevin de Bruyne returned to the division in February, only the Belgian, the Dane, and Dejan Kulusevski have more. Only Kevin de Bruyne has more. His expertise in set pieces is a factor.
Last season, Cristiano Ronaldo replaced Bruno Fernandes as the free kick taker for those within striking distance. Some dead-ball situations from wider positions have received less attention, but Eriksen has noticed that Fernandes has improved from the flanks. Casemiro scored from his free kick against Bournemouth, and Rashford scored from a corner kick against Nottingham Forest. Gary O’Neil, the defeated manager, stated, “The quality on the ball was obviously huge.”which is frequently Eriksen’s specialty. Ten Hag observed sloppy play in the final minutes against Bournemouth, despite the fact that United’s midfield now possesses a combination of skill and intelligence that was lacking for large swaths of recent seasons: definitely after Eriksen left, but maybe before he left, when Bournemouth had three chances in a row.
The manager complained, “We ended up with two departments, one attacking, one defending, and a big space in between.” It was very energy-intensive. It reminded me of a tennis match. You prefer to play football rather than tennis.
This United felt out of character for it; They might have missed Eriksen’s intelligence in the final stages. It’s possible that Fred had the exact opposite effect if he had been brought in to slow things down. Despite Eriksen’s low tackle and interception numbers as a holding midfielder, he can make up for it with his positional discipline and ability to read the game. Casemiro typically acts as the nullifier, and the duo has made a difference because of their distinct characteristics. In the 12 games they have started together, United has won 10 of them.The foundation of a revival is their alliance. Even though the score did not reflect that brief loss of control, it highlighted United’s gains this season: a conviction, an air of assurance, and some mastery from a young group of relative veterans who are familiar with the game. Additionally, that sport is football, not tennis.