When Casemiro signed for Manchester United in August, I called him a ‘Steady Eddie’. Maybe this gave the impression that I didn’t think he was up to much. I tell you, I would have been more than happy to be called a ‘Steady Eddie’.
It would mean I was consistent, doing something well every week that would get me a 7 or 7.5 out of 10 – that is what I see in Casemiro. For me, he’s the single biggest reason why the team have settled down and go into today’s Manchester derby having won their last eight in all competitions.
If you had asked Erik Ten Hag what his number one priority was earlier in the season, I’d think it would have been to stop conceding stupid goals. Casemiro, in his defensive midfield role, has gone a long way to correcting that.
Casemiro has been impressive in all aspects of play and even chipped in with goals
The Brazilian is the biggest reason why Manchester United have improved of late
I did question the fee they paid, £60million rising to £70m for a 30-year-old. Thinking about it now, I’m not sure the fee was so daft. He looks like someone who never has a bad game. His old Real Madrid team-mate, Luka Modric, played in a World Cup semi-final last month aged 37, and you feel Casemiro might be around for a while yet.
My best football was the season when I was 31, my last year at Liverpool. I played the same position and had a similar physique to Casemiro, so his best football could also still be in front of him.
Perhaps you’d expect me to say this, but that position on the field is greatly undervalued, too. If you are good, it is about not wanting to be the star of the show. It is about doing the stuff that the untrained eye does not see.
Little things, like taking a couple of steps to stop a pass into a centre-forward. Like staying on your feet at the right time rather than going to the ground.
It is the job your fellow professionals truly appreciate. Right now, in the Premier League, Casemiro is doing that better than anyone. The previous best was Fernandinho at Manchester City. I thought he was exceptional.
Nobody is doing a better job in the engine room than the former Real Madrid man
Do I think Casemiro is world class? My definition of that is a player who gets in every team in the world, and I’m not sure he does. Real Madrid obviously decided that there is someone better in that position and chose to sell him. He is very good at everything, without necessarily being great. He knows where to be at the right time defensively. He can pass the ball. He is chipping in with the odd goal-and so a midfielder should-and he is just a very good, all-round footballer.
I said to Jamie Redknapp recently when we were working on TV, when I come back in the next life, I want to be a centre-half with a midfield in front of me who are really good at pressing. Then, you spend most matches with a cigar in your mouth. You would like to have Casemiro in front of you in that regard.
Has he been better than I expected? I don’t think so. I knew what he would bring. But I stand by my point, no-one buys a season-ticket because Casemiro is playing. It’s called the engine-room for a reason – you’re often doing the dirty stuff. On reflection, he is exactly what Man United needed more than any of their other signings.
Which brings me onto Wout Weghorst, the former Burnley striker who is joining Man United on loan. He cannot be anything more than a body, it really is a case of needs-must. He scored two goals in 20 games for Burnley and found our football very difficult. I don’t see any reason as to why that would have changed.
Wout Weghorst is close to signing on loan for Manchester United but is just another body
It looks like Man United have realized they cannot rely on Anthony Martial as back-up to Marcus Rashford. Still, they will be hoping they do not have to use Weghorst very much, because he is several levels below what they have. It also tells you there isn’t any money in the pot, with the Glazers having the club on the market.
Historically, Weghorst, aged 30, does not feel like a Manchester United signing. But the idea of forward planning has ceased to exist at Old Trafford. They signed Odion Ighalo from China at the age of 30, Edinson Cavani aged 33 on a free transfer – months after they could have got him – and tried for Marko Arnautovic, who is 33, last summer.
Saying that, given their recent form, they’ll go into today’s game with their tails up – but I still expect City to win. They will be fully motivated and angry after losing to Southampton in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday. It is like poking the tiger in the cage, and I don’t think that is good news for Man United.
Erik ten Hag knows Manchester City will be seeing after their midweek defeat
BOEHLY’S BACKING FOR POTTER MEANS NOTHING
I have been in and around this game for 55 years. So, I will tell you what Chelsea’s board letting it be known that Graham Potter retains their support means – absolutely nothing!
I wish I had a tenner for every time I’ve heard a club say they are fully behind a manager, and then he gets sacked. What it really means is that, when the flak turns on the board instead of the manager, it will be him sent packing. End of. They’re all the same. It is all about self-preservation.
But I do think Potter needs help. Managing Brighton, and making the step to one of the biggest and most glamorous clubs in the world, the job description could not be more different. He looks like he is struggling.
The demands of being at a big football club are so different. I can make the comparison between managing Liverpool and then, with all respect, Blackburn or Southampton. There is so much more to occupy your time that you need good people around you. Those he has brought with him from Brighton have been on the same journey as him, so they won’t know what is needed at Chelsea.
Graham Potter’s Chelsea have been on an alarming slide and he is under massive pressure
I then look at the new technical director, Christopher Viwell, and he has no experience of the English game.
He may have great knowledge of Europe and beyond, but he will not fully understand the intensity of our game and what qualities are needed for a player to succeed at a big club in the most demanding league in the world. I just do not understand a lot of the decision-making since the American Todd Boehly took control of Chelsea.
They have now won one in nine in the Premier League and although there is no disgrace in losing to an in-form Fulham team, it just compounds the problems for Potter. For Chelsea, there is no given as to who they will beat right now, and Crystal Palace should fancy their chances at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Suspended Joao Felix will miss the game against Crystal Palace after his red card
LOSE TO SAINTS AND FRANK’S FINISHED AT EVERTON
My old club Southampton were searching for nirvana when they signed seven players aged 20 or under during the summer. I understand the ambition, you stay in the division and these boys are able to build on that first season and their value goes up and up.
On the other hand, you could wake up in a few years’ time deeply ensconced in the Championship. The road they have gone down is very dangerous. They are asking boys to be men and that is a big demand in our league, with nine hard months of physical and mental challenges.
Nathan Jones has come in as manager and has lost his first four league matches. Some supporters have turned on him already and I get their anger, that is the price on the ticket.
Nathan Jones orchestrated Southampton’s excellent win over Manchester City
I managed Southampton for one season – I resigned because, after a takeover I was promised would not happen, I realized I could not work with the new owner Rupert Lowe – but I always found the fans to be level-headed and fair.
At the moment, alarm bells are ringing and they are frustrated. I hope the win over Manchester City in the Carabao Cup this week is a turning point for them, but I’m still not sure.
Today’s game at Everton is huge for both clubs. But it is not as critical for Jones – who has two good cup results of late – as it is for Frank Lampard. I feel that a loss for Frank against the team that is bottom of the league would be a defining moment and would be unacceptable for the majority of Evertonians. He would probably pay with his job from him.