An inconsistent Manchester United got their Champions League campaign off to an unideal start after losing 4-3 to Bayern Munich in what was a dramatic showdown at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday night.
Exhibiting a disastrous defensive display yet proving clinical in attack, Man United’s mixed performance is a difficult one to dissect, especially with so many controversial talking points including Andre Onana’s error that led to Bayern’s opening goal and a controversial penalty decision due to a handball by Christian Eriksen.
Perhaps no player is a better reflection of his team’s overall inconsistency than key midfielder Casemiro.
For much of the first half, the Brazilian seemed to be almost invisible, leaving little impact on the match and failing to establish a foothold in the midfield as United slumped to a 2-0 deficit at the break.
Casemiro completed 34 of his 40 passes throughout the match, achieving an 85% pass accuracy, however, his passing game did little to drive United’s attack forward.
As the Red Devils’ prime holding midfielder, the 30 year old is expected to show physicality in his deep midfield role, using his physicality to suppress the Bayern attack.
Unfortunately, he fell well short in this respect, managing just three tackles and losing all six of his remaining duels throughout the 90 minutes.
In fact, with Casemiro seemingly absent at several key moments, Bruno Fernandes tracked back to three tackles of his own, highly unorthodox and technically outside of the United captain’s job description given his advanced position on the pitch.
But even as his performance in the midfield was lacking, Casemiro proved to make all the difference in the final minutes of the match as United attempted to avoid defeat.
In the 87th minute of play, Casemiro controlled the ball on the edge of the box before flicking it upwards and hammering home a scissor kick while on the ground to hand United their second goal of the match.
Moments before the final whistle, the Brazilian found himself on the end of a thunderous Bruno Fernandes free kick, blasting the ball into the bottom corner of the far side of the net.
While Casemiro’s performance in his primary midfield role was understated, his two opportunistic goals proved that he continues to be a clinical player when his moment arises.
It seems as if the question now is whether or not these two goals are a sign of Casemiro finally returning to his form of last season following a challenging start to the 2023/24 campaign.
(Stats via Sofascore)