The month of January should see Manchester United’s injury problems alleviated in the centre of the park.
Erik ten Hag has claimed that Mason Mount and Casemiro will be back soon to help reinvigorate the Red Devils’ campaign.
A player who has had his own injury worries but bounced back in style is youngster, Kobbie Mainoo.
The 18 year old has arguably been the bright spot of United’s season and has put in numerous performances in the midfield that show maturity well beyond his years.
On making his full debut versus Everton, pundits such as Ian Wright and Rio Ferdinand waxed lyrical about his contribution to a 3-0 win which included a goalline saving clearance.
The youngster has gone from strength to strength and become an indispensable member of the first choice eleven since. He was especially praised for his disciplined performance at Anfield, where his side secured a credible 0-0 draw.
The midfielder has played nine times this season since the end of November and solidified his place over the winter in the team.
His manager is also in love with him purring that his skillset and attitude is “what he likes in a player”.
The Stockport teenager also showed his potential for growth in Monday’s FA Cup win where he excelled in a slightly more forward role in the midfield against lower league opposition. In fact the player almost opened his account for the senior side but his effort drew a smart stop for Wigan keeper, Sam Tickle.
However, with the return of Casemiro on the horizon, Mainoo’s gametime as the main defensive midfielder could all change. It doesn’t need to though.
Casemiro was immense last season and is certainly better than he showed at the start of the season. However, it must be stated, he put in some brutal performances early doors in the campaign, especially against Wolves where he was consistently breezed past by the opposition midfielders. He also looked “a shadow” of his former self against Brighton in a 1-3 loss in September.
The Real Madrid legend does not need to be forced into the first eleven right away and should earn back his place. Mainoo has objectively played better and brings much more control to the team and youthful energy. Not to mention that the young Englishman is also just better on the ball and if Ten Hag wants to play a more possession based style which he always claims is his end goal, Mainoo would make more sense.
The two could also play together in the centre of the park, especially in games where defensive solidity is key. Casemiro’s problem is that he has been left isolated by the likes of Christian Eriksen, Mason Mount, Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes’ desire to drive forwards. Mainoo has showed he has the smarts not to do this.
Furthermore, INEOS have also allegedly decided to make the squad younger and with a more British focus. They are reportedly keen to offload the wages of older players like Raphael Varane and Casemiro to free up Financial Fair Play wiggle room.
In fact, during Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s meeting with United in March to make his pitch to buy the club, he used Casemiro as exactly the type of deal his organization would not carry out.
It has also been stated that INEOS want to sign younger, hungrier and if possible more home-grown talent. Kicking Mainoo out of the team to accommodate an aging Casemiro is the exact opposite of this motto.
In conclusion, Casemiro is still a very good player on his day and will most likely show much better performances when his injury woes are behind him. The legendary Brazilian could actually benefit from playing alongside Mainoo or rotating with him.
The United FA Cup Youth winner of 2022 could also take advantage of the situation, as what better role model to be mentored by than the multiple Champions League winner? If the Brazilian accepts a backup role to teach the ropes to the young Englishman, Manchester United’s defensive midfield could finally be in safe hands in the short and long term.