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United fans knew that Casemiro would bring the aggression along with his positional sense and reading of the game, to see the danger before it unfolds. The pleasant surprise has been what he has done in possession. There was the feeling in Madrid that he was a pure No 6 because of who he played with – Luka Modic and Toni Kroos. He sacrificed himself in pursuit of a platform for them. But Casemiro is much more than a mere enabler.

The Brazilian’s impact – on and off the field – has been nothing short of sensational. There are some fans who have likened it to that of Eric Cantona in 1992 and, if that is big talk, well, this is a club where that sort of thing is a part of it. Roméo Lavia, who should be available now Southampton have been relegated, is another option, though United would face competition for the Belgian from a number of Premier League suitors. The 19-year-old is one for the present and the future. There are other players in the mix who could add some bite to midfield, notably Palhinha, Edson Álvarez of Ajax, and Marcel Sabitzer, who has spent the second half of the season on loan at United. The likes of Casemiro and fellow summer signing Lisandro Martínez have been central to restoring that bond between players and supporters after the disconnect last season. That was probably never better encapsulated than at Stamford Bridge in October when Casemiro’s dramatic 94th minute equaliser sparked wild scenes of celebration. Now 30, the only disappointment for supporters is they have had to wait until this stage of Casemiro’s career to finally see a midfielder of that calibre in a red shirt.

Casemiro with the Champions League trophy last May – the fifth he won with Real Madrid. Photograph: Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images When I arrived here, and it was down to the language I was fortunate Bruno would help me a great deal,” Casemiro says. “He was always brilliant, and taught me lots about the club. I have a very good relationship with Bruno, we get on really well. Casemiro scores for Manchester United against Reading in the FA Cup. He has four goals and five assists. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images Casemiro congratulates Bruno Fernandes after he scored against Fulham in United’s last game of the Premier League season. Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images Casemiro is such an important player, he’s been in big places and how you see him on the pitch is the way he is off it – just a really calm guy,” Fernandes says. “He doesn’t speak English really well yet but in the way of football, the way he can communicate with his teammates, he speaks really well.

He studies his opponents and their strengths and weaknesses in detail before games and is a huge football fan who will generally watch a game a day, which is surprisingly uncommon for modern day players. Some of the older academy players have been overwhelmed by the time he affords them. The Manchester United Foundation say much the same. United would have pushed the button sooner on Casemiro had Ten Hag not hung on as long as he did for De Jong. So long, in fact, that it was only in a big recruitment meeting in the days before the Brentford game that the decision was taken to finally abandon the pursuit of the Barcelona midfielder, park interest in the likes of Adrien Rabiot and land Casemiro. He has been having regular English lessons both inside and out the club and considers improving his grasp of the language his greatest urgency. That dedication is starting to pay off. Staff have been impressed by his knowledge of United’s history and, while he is a particular fan of Paul Scholes, he has enjoyed chatting about Eric Cantona and Roy Keane. Of all his current team-mates, Marcus Rashford is said to have stood out for him and he believes the England striker could become one of the world’s best.When it became clear that United would not get De Jong, and the truth was that he could not have been clearer from the outset about not wanting to move, the club sounded out Adrien Rabiot at Juventus. Then, bang, they got Casemiro. In midfield, cover for Casemiro is also of the utmost importance. United were fragile during his suspensions this season, so it’s no surprise to see the club linked with a move for Adrien Rabiot. The France international, who is out of contract at Juventus next month, was rumoured to be on United’s radar last summer and he could be a decent fit to ease the burden on Casemiro. With Casemiro, United are averaging 64.1 passes into the final third per game compared to 51.3 without him and their open play crosses, possession and pass accuracy statistics all shoot up who dramatically when the Brazilian plays. Listening to the Old Trafford crowd roar its approval whenever Casemiro makes another raking pass has, sources said, left a huge impression on the player. Maybe it is because Casemiro played alongside two of the great modern passers in Luka Modric and Toni Kroos at Real that his own passing was underestimated but it has transformed the way United play.

The Red Devils will welcome Manuel Pellegrini's men to Old Trafford this Thursday for a last-16 clash, having beaten Barcelona in the play-off round. Casemiro, 30, was instrumental in both legs but could find himself missing an upcoming fixture as United resume their European campaign following Sunday's appalling 7-0 defeat to arch-rivals Liverpool.What have so impressed the staff at United are Casemiro’s hunger and professionalism. Is he sated by his five Champions Leagues plus 13 other honours at Real, including three La Liga titles? Absolutely not. Casemiro wanted to take on a new challenge, feeling that his cycle at the Bernabéu was over, and it says plenty that he went for a total change in a new country with a different language and football culture.

I want to show my fighting spirit, capacity to work hard and professional attitude. I want to win the league. I am going through one of the best moments of my career. I feel I’m really fit, mentally I feel great, and I want to continue to enjoy. It’s a great moment to take this decision.”Casemiro wants more and it is another line from his unveiling interview that has come to linger. “I have a lot of ambition to win,” he said. “If next year we don’t win the Premier League or the Champions League, I will be sad and angry.” As one goal after another flew in and Manchester United found themselves 4-0 down and humiliated at half-time at Brentford in August, there were more than a few people at the club worried as to whether Casemiro might have second thoughts about joining them.

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