Casemiro admits Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag’s obsession for winning has taken him by surprise and is at a level he has “only seen with very few managers”.
The midfielder, a five-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid, moved to United in the summer from the Spanish team in a transfer projected to reach £70m.
Casemiro played under Zinedine Zidane and Carlo Ancelotti at the Bernabeu – two coaches that have won a combined seven Champions League titles – and the Brazil international says the Dutchman’s mentality is up there with the best he has worked with.
“After being in football for quite a while even though I’m only 30, his obsession for winning is what surprised me the most,” said Casemiro ahead of Thursday’s Europa League Group E decider at Real Sociedad.
“I think he’s got many strengths, we all know it’s a process and we’re growing together.
What’s at stake in Real Sociedad vs Man Utd?
- Man Utd travel to Real Sociedad needing to win by more than two goals to finish top of Europa League Group E.
- Topping the group would give Man Utd a bye to the last-16
- If they fail to do so, Ten Hag’s side will have to face one of the eight teams that finished third in their Champions League group.
- A bye would mean no more European football to worry about until March 9.
“We want to win and [Ten Hag] is obsessed with teaching us and making us better to the millimetre. That obsession with winning is something I’ve only seen with very few managers.”
Ten Hag: Casemiro came to Man Utd to prove himself
Eyebrows were raised when Casemiro left the reigning champions of Europe for a struggling United side in the Europa League that had made a disastrous start to the campaign against Brighton and Brentford.
Casemiro dismissed suggestions the move was motivated by money as he bid farewell to Real ahead of joining what he described as “the biggest club in the world”.
Much of the criticism has been forgotten because of Casemiro’s transformational impact on United’s midfield since breaking into the team, with reports in Brazil claiming he has settled in to life in Manchester very quickly.
Ten Hag has been impressed by Casemiro, whom he describes as “the cement between the stones”, and explained why he never doubted his motivations for making the transfer to United.
“In the first conversation [Casemiro] told me he needs a new challenge because at Real Madrid he won everything,” said Ten Hag.
“He was a big part at Real Madrid and they didn’t want him to go but he had the feeling ‘I have to go to another club, another league to prove myself’, and that shows his hunger.”
The Dutchman added: “From the first day [Casemiro] has come with that attitude in every training, every match and I really like it. He will be more and more important to our team.
“You see him [Casemiro] growing game by game and also our team is growing so we’re really happy with the progress but we have to keep that process going. We are not satisfied and we have to keep getting better.”
What’s the state of play for Man Utd in EL?
Manchester United have qualified for the knockout rounds after beating Sheriff Tiraspol last week. They will now go head to head with Real Sociedad on Thursday for first and second spot.
The Spanish side are top of Group E by three points with a better goal difference. However, should Man Utd win in San Sebastian, the group winner will be dictated by the head-to-head record
Sociedad won 1-0 at Old Trafford, but because of their superior goal difference, Man Utd would have to win by two clear goals to finish top of the group. Sociedad could draw or lose by a single goal and still go straight into the round of 16.
Ronaldo shows football must change its attitude to substitutes
Sky Sports’ Adam Bate:
Cristiano Ronaldo’s reaction to life among the substitutes has put the role back in the spotlight. But it has done so at a time when the impact and the importance of the Premier League substitute has never been more apparent.
Ronaldo was dropped for Manchester United’s trip to Chelsea in October as punishment for refusing to go on as a late substitute and for leaving early in the win over Tottenham.
et, the previous month, Heung-Min Son became the first substitute to score a Premier League hat-trick for seven years. When Ronaldo himself came off the bench to score against Everton last month, the number of Premier League goals per game being scored by substitutes jumped to its highest level for almost a decade.
That is a logical consequence of the rule that now allows a team to make five substitutions, encouraging their earlier introduction. Any coach – and indeed any player – who chooses to downplay or ignore the opportunities that this presents does so at their peril.