Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has made a strong impression on Casemiro with a winning mentality he has seen in few coaches throughout his career.
Casemiro joined United from Real Madrid in August in a deal potentially worth £70million (€78.9m), having played under the likes of Carlo Ancelotti, Rafael Benitez and Zinedine Zidane.
The Brazil international signed for the club amid a period of relative uncertainty given the disappointing nature of the previous season and Ten Hag’s arrival a few months earlier ushering in a new era.
But after a slow start for both, Casemiro has excelled and Ten Hag has overseen significant collective improvement, with United fourth in the Premier League and hoping to go a point behind champions Manchester City with a win in Saturday’s derby.
Ten Hag has applauded Casemiro for the impact he has made and the midfielder reciprocated with praise of his own.
“He’s certainly a manager who is obsessed with winning,” Casemiro told ICS. “Few managers in my career had the same obsession to win.
“He’s someone who always wants to win: even in training, he always wants the best. He’s a hard-working manager who demands a lot of his players so that we’re always at our best and that’s important for us.
“I also view him as a manager with the desire to see Manchester United grow and develop, that’s one of his most important characteristics, not just his but all the coaching staff who follow his lead.”
Casemiro has transformed United’s midfield with a crucial blend of destructiveness and playmaking ability.
Every 90 minutes he averages 6.3 involvements in open-play passing sequences that end in a shot, a record bettered by only five central midfielders in the Premier League this term (minimum of 500 minutes), including more recognised creators such as Bruno Fernandes (7.3) and Kevin De Bruyne (8.0).
Additionally, just five players in the league (min. 500 minutes) have been involved in more shot-ending build-up sequences (48) without creating or taking the shot. Both of these highlight how central Casemiro’s playmaking skills are from his deep-lying position, even if he is not necessarily the one playing the key pass.
But it is off the ball where many fans feel his presence is most welcomed, given the only other United central midfielder to record at least three tackles and eight duel wins (3.8 and 8.1) on a 90-minute basis over a season in the past 15 years is Marouane Fellaini in 2013-14 (3.1 and 9.3) and 2016-17 (3.0 and 10.8).
Casemiro does not think he is doing anything that would not be expected of him, though, and it is this simplicity and clarity from Ten Hag that he values.
“He’s a very intelligent coach,” Casemiro told ICS. “He knows what he can ask for from each player.
“I’d say he doesn’t ask me for anything I can’t do, obviously I can contribute to the team. The manager makes adjustments of course, but he doesn’t ask for anything different from what I’ve been doing throughout my career.
“Nothing special is requested. Of course, the league and the games themselves allow you to get forward more.
“Everyone, including the manager, knows my role: bring balance to the team, support my team-mates, play between the centre-backs, provide cover for the full-backs, help the midfield, play out from the back with a quality pass. Nothing different from what I’ve always done in my career.”
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