The Great Manchester United Transfer Tombola has spun once again and this time they’re apparently ending up with a world-class defensive midfielder.
That’s good, isn’t it? Signing a world-class defensive midfielder seems like a really good idea, because Manchester United’s current options in the centre of midfield are standing out as malfunctioning components in the current Manchester United team and standing out as a malfunctioning component in the current Manchester United team is quite a feat.
Yet this is Manchester United in 2022 so nothing is ever simple. It’s hard to put a finger on it but this feels a vaguely… undignified transfer.
There’s an inherent desperation to it. Even if it all goes through, if Casemiro’s mum hasn’t already scuppered it, and even if he does improve the team – as surely he must – it will still feel like a Pyrrhic victory.
Diving in to sign a 30-year-old for £60m in mid-August is not generally the way sensible clubs do business. Signing a 30-year-old for £60m who is markedly different to the previous players you’ve been pursuing even more so.
Jumping from Frenkie De Jong to Adrien Rabiot to Casemiro has to be a concern. There is no plan here, just a panicky jump from target to target, all of wildly different style and profile and age. That United have ended up with an excellent player at the end of it only makes it funnier.
We could attempt some serious analysis here. We could talk about Real Madrid’s ability to identify the right time to move players on. That United have been burnt before. That a direct leap from the Real Madrid winning machine to whatever Manchester United currently are represents a significant culture shock and how he even fits into an Erik ten Hag side.
But really, what’s the point? He’ll probably be pretty good. He’ll almost certainly be better than what United have. United will be less sh*t than they have been in the first two games anyway – because if they aren’t then this really is going to be quite a season.
Yet it’s another very expensive sticking plaster over deep wounds. It might get United through the next year or two, but then what? They are back where they started.
Manchester City signed Fernandinho at 29, Liverpool signed Thiago at 28. There’s no reason why signing a player of Casemiro’s age is inherently wrong. But only if it fits into some sort of identifiable strategy. This does not.
It might get the fans off the Glazers’ back for a bit. It might make the results slightly less dreadful. It will give the place a lift. It might even be that it’s the right thing to do. Who even knows any more.
It might be that Casemiro does still have three or four great years in him and United can reap the benefit. But it all looks like a high-stakes, high-risk gamble and even if it does pay off United will have essentially just pulled a Homer.
This is a club without direction. The fact they can attempt to mask this by just chucking £60m at a 30-year-old central midfielder highlights just how badly run they are, how just being Manchester United provides a floor below which it is impossible for them to sink in the Premier League’s unequal contest.
There should be few pats on the back for United if this turns out to be a game-changer of a signing; it’s little more than a fluke. A Fantasy Football signing. It’s like letting the dimmest of fans decide a transfer strategy. Our midfield is rubbish, we should just sign Casemiro at whatever it costs? It’s fine for forum chat but it’s no way to run one of the biggest football clubs on the planet.
It’s good that they’ve finally realised a defensive midfielder might be needed, but outrageous that it has taken this long. In a summer where Spurs have signed Yves Bissouma for £25m, United’s dawdling and lack of direction is tantamount to negligence. Now even when they might well be getting it right, it still comes at a heavy price.