Could Casemiro *actually* end up costing Man Utd Champions League football?

Will Ford
Man Utd midfielder Casemiro is consoled

Casemiro has “fixed” Manchester United, who would not be in the top four without him. How ironic then that he could end up being the man to cost them in their bid for Champions League qualification…

By the time Casemiro has served his four-match ban, he will have been suspended for half as many Premier League games as he’s started in his debut season for Manchester United. That’s really poor, and also – contrary to what his aura and style suggests – very out of the ordinary.

Casemiro had never been shown a straight red card before he joined Manchester United. He now has two in his last three Premier League games. He had only ever been sent off twice before he arrived in England. He averaged more than ten yellow cards per season, but masterfully toed the line.

It was an unfortunate red card on Sunday in that he made contact with the ball before his studs rolled on to Carlos Alcaraz’s ankle, but that’s always the risk with a challenge like that, and a player as experienced as him should know better.

He’s been magnificent for Manchester United. He’s the central midfielder the club has desperately needed. It’s fair to suggest United would not be in the Champions League qualification spots without him. As Casemiro himself predicted, he’s “fixed” them. How ironic then that he could be the man to eventually cost them in that bid, as well as a second piece of silverware.

United take on Fulham in the FA Cup quarter-finals next weekend, before they travel to St James’ Park to face top four rivals Newcastle in the Premier League, then European hopefuls Brentford and a revitalised Everton; all now without Casemiro.

Seven points from their three games during his first red card absence won’t offer much in the way of assurance given they played Leicester and Leeds (twice), and the game Casemiro missed due to his build up of yellow cards saw them lose 3-2 to Arsenal.

The gap to Liverpool in fifth is healthy. Eight is a significant number of points to make up, especially given the flakiness of Jurgen Klopp’s side. But they could go on a run, as could Newcastle, who will be three points behind Man United ahead of their clash at the start of April if they beat Wolves and Nottingham Forest beforehand.

We’re assuming a lot here. Firstly that United will revert to pre-Casemiro type without him, which is a tad unfair on his possible replacements. Fred has impressed this season, and Scott McTominay did no harm to his chances of coming in for the Brazilian for the foreseeable after his second-half display against Southampton. It also requires two of the teams below United to be consistent enough to displace them from the top four, which doesn’t feel hugely likely.

But Casemiro’s recklessness has brought United closer to the chasing pack, and for a team whose confidence must be fragile after that thumping by Liverpool and now a draw at home against Southampton (who created a fair few chances even before Casemiro went off), such a significant absentee could further knock them ahead of this crunch period of the season.