Manchester United’s Carabao Cup victory over Newcastle United featured a number of excellent performances, but there was no player more worthy of than Casemiro.
As alluded to by Gary Neville in the commentary box, many looked at his signing as one of panic.
“A huge fee, massive wages, a contract that was far too long,” he said, echoing the thoughts of many at the time.
But the former Real Madrid man has shown once again that he did not come to Old Trafford for a holiday.
An inspired performance in midfield – another one, yes – was key to United’s victory as they lifted their first trophy after six long years without.
Of course, his opening goal was vital, and it certainly put the Red Devils in the driving seat early on as they dominated the first half.
But throughout the match it was Casemiro’s relentless ability to hold his midfield together and defend his backline that demonstrated perfectly why he was signed.
The Brazilian put in five tackles – with only Aaron Wan-Bissaka putting in more – as he swept up and snapped in whenever the Magpies threatened to break through United’s centre.
He made two vital clearances and three accurate long passes to end Newcastle’s attacks set up counter punches for his team.
Casemiro’s 53 touches were bested only by Bruno Fernandes, with the five-time Champions League winner taking the ball in dangerous areas and evading Newcastle’s enthusiastic press.
His leadership is unquestionable. Even at the end of the game – the trophy won – he felt it necessary to argue the point to Bruno Fernandes that a pass instead of his chosen shot in the dying seconds of the game would have given the team a better scoreline.
In recent years Manchester United have lacked a midfielder who possessed both the steel and the poise to give them balance.
Now, they might just have the best one in the world.
(All stats are taken from Sofascore)