Casemiro is the gift that keeps on giving for Man Utd

Casemiro played a huge role as Man Utd beat Barcelona
Casemiro played a huge role as Man Utd beat Barcelona / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Manchester United would not have beaten Barcelona on Thursday night without Casemiro, a win that puts them into the Europa League last 16 and arguably makes them favourites for the trophy.

The Brazilian has been a revelation since a £60m summer transfer from Real Madrid. Eyebrows were raised at the fee and whether someone who already has five Champions League winner’s medals in his collection would have the motivation to start over at a new club not ready to compete.

But Casemiro has made United compete.

His past record of success is obvious – no one plays over 300 games for a club dominating Europe the way Real did without being world class – but for anyone who hasn’t been an avid Real Madrid watcher is being introduced to him now.

It initially took a few weeks for Casemiro to learn Erik ten Hag’s principles and earn a place in the team. But once he achieved that, United have been a different proposition altogether and fans have rightly been raving about him. It is telling that the last game of his United ‘apprenticeship’, so to speak, was coming off the bench in a 6-3 Manchester derby defeat. Since becoming a regular starter, the team has lost only once in 19 games he has played in across all competitions.

Having served a Premier League suspension for the narrow defeat by Arsenal – there is every chance that would have been different had he been available – and recent games against Leeds (twice) and Leicester, Thursday night was another clear reminder of Casemiro’s brilliance.

The Brazilian continued to give United presence and balance in midfield, something that had been lacking for a decade prior to his arrival. Even when Barcelona were in the ascendancy in the first half, he was still the best player on the pitch, ensuring the Catalans constantly hit a wall – Casemiro finished the game having recovered possession 14 times (fotmob).

In one particularly crucial moment, he stopped Barcelona potentially ending the tie with 45 minutes still to play. It could have been curtains for United in first half stoppage time when David de Gea sloppily gave the ball away with a poor kick. Barcelona would have made it 2-0 on the night and 4-2 on aggregate had it not been for a sliding Casemiro tackle on Sergi Roberto and subsequent block whilst then lying on the floor to deny Franck Kessie on the rebound.

The big players step up in the big moments, and this was the biggest player in the biggest moment.

On the ball, Casemiro still doesn’t get enough credit either. Only a few minutes into the game, a curved through pass sent Bruno Fernandes clear and warranted a more clinical finish. Fans have previously seen Casemiro’s goalscoring side as it is, while the winning mentality and experience he continues to breathe throughout the rest of the squad is invaluable.

On this week's edition of TFP, Chelsea legend Joe Cole joins Harry Symeou, Grizz Kahn, Scott Saunders and Hunter Godson to discuss all the UEFA Champions League action from midweek, as well as look ahead to this weekend's biggest fixtures. If you can't see this embed, click here to watch the video!