Manchester United won the English League Cup by beating Newcastle 2-0 in the final. Why is this a momentous moment for the club and why is it too early to rejoice?
Manchester United is reborn, but not revived
Eric ten Hag’s progress in six months is obvious and easily supported by the usual look at Manchester United’s performance in different tournaments. The club is third in the English Premier League, beat Barcelona in the Europa League, is still fighting for the national cup, and has now also won the League Cup.
Manchester United have won their first trophy in almost six years, which is certainly great for this season’s success, but it’s too early to say that the club has resurfaced and become great again.
The Glazers club bosses have got the manager right, the team is on the move but still has a lot of work to do. It is impossible to talk about a full return at the end of a season (even less so), because even with former coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer there were moments of light and joy, but the result never really appeared.
Casemiro is a genius
Casemiro has been a bastion of Real Madrid reliability for many years and one of the best defensive midfielders in the world, but he needed a new challenge, which he found at Manchester United. The English paid a whopping €70m for a 30-year-old, which seemed crazy in the summer of 2022, but six months later the Brazilian proved the money had been spent correctly.
Casemiro scored the game-winner against Newcastle, helped win the trophy (21 for himself), and even this isn’t enough to win back his transfer, but here’s something more important. Casemiro brought a champion spirit and character to the Manchester United dressing room that had not been there before him. Casemiro’s transfer is not about revenge and profitable resale, but about a guarantee of a happy future, the formation of a new Manchester United and a competent transfer policy, which has not been talked about in recent years.
Emergence and/or awakening of leaders
And yet, the main victory of ten Hag lies not only in cool newcomers, but in the rehabilitation of previous players who have already given up.
The most banal but best example is Marcus Rashford. The youth squad player did not play a point guard last season, scoring only 4+2 in “goal + pass”, and now he has suddenly blossomed into one of the best strikers on the planet. In 24 days he has 14 + 3 in the Premier League, in addition to a lot of scoring action in other tournaments.
Another inconspicuous, but no less important character in the current team is Rafael Varane, who finally began to resemble himself as a Real Madrid model. He is the leader of the defense, without which Manchester United would be much weaker.
The scoring players don’t just stick their fingers to their heads during the goal celebration, as if hinting that it is thanks to ten Hag’s thinking and different approach that their game has changed. The reboot was successful.
Everything is perfect?
And yet, as I said before, the “devils” have a lot of work to do. If all the players are healthy and ready, then they can beat any opponent, but as soon as a couple of links are removed from the scheme, the structure immediately breaks.
For example, the presence of Casemiro greatly influences the team’s result. With him, Manchester United win 2.3 points per game and concede 0.7 goals; without him, Manchester United earn 1.4 points per game and concede 2.1 goals. Without Casemiro, without defense. A club competing for high honors shouldn’t be so dependent on one player.
In attack everything depends on Rashford, who isn’t very good either. If Marcus doesn’t score, then you have to rely on the very strange and clumsy Wout Weghorst, the nondescript Anthony or other forwards.
Manchester United are building a base, they are on the right track, but so far everything seems too fragile to sing its praises.