Casemiro is already Man Utd's best signing for 10 years

Casemiro's arrival has sparked Man Utd's re-birth
Casemiro's arrival has sparked Man Utd's re-birth / Matthew Ashton - AMA/GettyImages

It has been almost a decade since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and almost a decade since Manchester United have tasted anything more than fleeting success.

Their last Premier League title challenge came under Fergie, his parting gift in the form of a milestone 20th English league title – extending their own record.

In the years since, United have sporadically won cup competitions – the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League once each – but haven’t been remotely close to winning the two trophies that matter most – the Premier League and Champions League.

Money has been spent in the transfer market and a few signings have been kind of successful – Zlatan Ibrahimovic had one great season, Bruno Fernandes looks destined to be around for years and others have played well in patches – but most new arrivals have been and gone (or stuck around a little too long) without ultimately bettering themselves or the club.

United’s last masterstroke in the transfer market was the capture of Robin van Persie in 2012, a decisive factor in leaving Manchester City in the dust in the 2012/13 title race. Since then, there have been too many flops that cost too much money. Until now.

Even just a few months into his United career, Casemiro is the already best signing the club has made since Van Persie completed that controversial switch from Arsenal in search of silverware.

The Casemiro deal seemed to come out of nowhere towards the end of a summer when United had failed to agree a deal with Adrien Rabiot, although international colleague Fred later hinted it had been in the works for at least a little while. But sceptical eyebrows were initially raised as to why Real Madrid were willing to let him go, why United were paying so much for a player who turns 31 this season, why he would choose a club beginning a new rebuilding project and whether United were simply being rinsed by someone seeking potentially the last big contract of his career.

It took him a little while to command a place in the team as Erik ten Hag ensured he first has a handle on what was expected, but Casemiro has quickly dispelled all such concerns.

He had won it all with Real Madrid multiple times over and his parting comments about moving on in search of a new challenge were not simply empty words. Casemiro has played in United colours with the hunger of a player seeking to prove himself all over again.

The five-time Champions League winner wasn’t bought to score goals but that towering stoppage time header against Chelsea in October to salvage a point kind of summarised what he is about, showcasing a never say die mentality and determination never to be beaten. It is a spirit that characterised United teams for nearly 30 years under Ferguson, but has been all too absent since.

Casemiro had only been a sub when Manchester City won 6-3 in the derby earlier this season, but he has started every Premier League game since and United have looked far better for it. He makes the team altogether more solid, providing a foundation for others to perform.

Having assessed the United squad in the summer, Ten Hag had set his heart on a ‘number six’ and has now labelled Casemiro the ‘perfect one’.

“He has showed a lot of leadership and football skills,” the boss told club media this week. “He is keeping the team together and then he is also so important in our ball playing. Winning the ball and giving the ball to the right player, like he did with the third goal [against Nottingham Forest].” 

For the first time in 10 years, Manchester United are starting to look like their old selves once more. Casemiro won’t write the headlines if and when success does return to Old Trafford, but he will have made it possible for others to do so. Sometimes that is the most important thing.