Manchester United… 2
Newcastle United… 0
It doesn’t happen too often, but when a gut feeling turns out to be right it adds another layer of glow to any success which may accrue from what the hunch was.
The arrival and impact of Casemiro at Old Trafford fits snugly into the above bracket. It will be openly admittted that this writer knew very little, if anything, about the experienced Brazilian before he assumed Paul Scholes’ old No. 18 jersey. Just one look was all it took, though, to realise Manchester United had acquired themselves a gem.
Anyone who has been perusing material in this space for long enough will know just how wide and varied sporting interests are in this seat. More than that, there should be an understanding of how it’s preferred to see certain things done.
For instance, in my view, having a scrum half in rugby who can deliver quick ruck ball or possession off the base of a set scrum is pivotal. Turn to GAA, and, whenever I’ve been involved with teams, my steadfast belief is that – in any of the codes – the centre half back should never, ever leave the middle.
Turn to horse racing. I love to see a horse held up just off the pace and then come with their run. And so we arrive at the point of most relevance to this offering. Call me a boring traditionalist if you like, but, if I were tactically setting up a soccer team, it would absolutely by 4-4-2, with one central midfielder not straying far from the centre circle and the other sort of with a free role to go from box to box and also help help out wherever they may be required.
Which is why, in the mould of Roy Keane and Scholes, Casemiro is a perfect fit for United. Also akin to his two world class predecessors, though, the former Real Madrid man has also got the rough end of the stick from referees.
However, yesterday’s performance was a tour de force of everything he brings to the table. Clearing balls out of the Red Devils’ defence, diverting a heap of traffic out of the midfield area and – most importantly – essaying home the first goal. It was always going to be the case that if United scored first they would be able to set themselves up to control the game thereafter.
Thus, even without the wicked deflection on Marcus Rashford’s shot to take it over Laurus Karius in the Newcastle goal, there was an inevitability about either the aforementioned forward or some of his colleagues netting again to end the club’s trophy drought.
In the aftermath of the success, one couldn’t but become engulfed in Erik ten Hag’s infectious enthusiasm. In fairness to the man, he has effected an astronomical transformation in the club’s fortunes in what feels like a very short space of time. Remember, it’s not all that long ago since United lost their first two league games, shipping seven goals in the process and, if memory serves me correctly, failing to register themselves.
Having broken his duck in terms of bringing a trophy back to the club, there is a case to be made for the belief that several more will follow on foot of the maiden manifestation of the ten Hag revolution. The proof of that pudding, though, will be in the eating.