Erik ten Hag picks Casemiro replacement after £70m star concerns raised

Reaction to the VAR decision that cost Wolves a penalty against Man Utd | Football Digest

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag believes Kobbie Mainoo is ready to develop in Casemiro’s holding midfield role once he returns from injury. The Dutchman has offered an updated timeline for Mainoo’s recovery and could view him as his No 18’s long-term replacement.

Casemiro was left isolated in United’s narrow 1-0 win against Wolves to kick-start their Premier League campaign.

Raphael Varane’s second-half header rescued the hosts in a game at Old Trafford where Wolves had all the big chances while splitting United’s midfield with ease.

Jamie Carragher believes Ten Hag needs a more youthful option at the foot of his midfield after Declan Rice and Moises Caicedo’s summer moves to Arsenal and Chelsea, respectively.

“Every time United toiled in the middle [vs Wolves], the contrast with the youth and vigour Arsenal and Chelsea have secured with their recent midfield purchases became more pronounced,” he wrote for The Telegraph.

“It reminded me of seeing Fabinho struggling for Liverpool at the start of last season, a situation briefly fixed when Trent Alexander-Arnold moved alongside him prior to the Brazilian being sold.”

Despite Carragher’s concerns, Ten Hag didn’t consider Casemiro exposed against Wolves, but he admitted his midfield had to improve.

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And Ten Hag has backed Mainoo to challenge for the position once he returns from a pre-season injury expected to leave him sidelines for two more months.

He said: “I know he is not in this moment there, but Kobbie Mainoo, we have seen him against Arsenal [in pre-season]. He is ready to take that role.

“Not at this moment available, but I think he will in two months he will be available, for winter is coming up he will absolutely have his games.”

The 18-year-old midfielder is one of the most exciting talents to come through United’s famous youth ranks in recent years.

After making his senior debut in January, he will be eyeing another breakthrough campaign once fit and may see most of his minutes covering Casemiro in preparation for replacing the 31-year-old.

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Despite Carragher’s concerns, Ten Hag didn’t consider Casemiro exposed against Wolves, but he admitted his midfield had to improve.

“First, I didn’t see it that way [Casemiro exposed]. I thought he was surrounded by Luke Shaw. He was also surrounded in cases by Lisandro Martinez, by Mason Mount,” Ten Hag explained.

“But definitely, it is a new midfield. We have to step up there. We have to improve. So I agree with that fact. We have to improve it.

“In possession, we were absolutely no good and had to do with rules and principles. We didn’t match rules and principles in our possession game, then we don’t get a good game.

“Also, players make so many unforced errors. It was very below our standards in what I use for my players, in what my players are capable of. But it can happen.”

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