A decade ago, Manchester United’s legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson retired – and thus called time on a trophy-laden career. Since then, the club has gone from manager to manager with many false dawns and little to show in terms of success.
There was some optimism at the start of the season as the Board finally seemed to hire a competent manager – Erik Ten Hag. But the season started in questionable fashion with an embarrassing 4-1 defeat at a smaller club called Brentford (I shared a Ten Hag story after that defeat – a turning point in the team’s fortunes).
That week, United were actively negotiating with Real Madrid over the transfer of their star defensive midfielder Casemiro. Madrid had bought a promising young midfielder themselves and 30 year old Casemiro had no interest in playing second fiddle.
Many – me included – wondered why Casemiro would be interested in Manchester United. Sure, Erik Ten Hag seemed promising. But we’d just experienced a disappointing decade. The chances of a turnaround were slim. Then there was the embarrassing Brentford performance unfolding in front of everyone’s eyes. Club officials were justifiably worried that Casemiro would turn them down after seeing that.
We now know that the story went differently. Casemiro was watching the game from his home in Madrid. He then texted his agent – “Tell them I’ll fix this.”
~5 months later, I think it’s fair to say he has.
Time will tell if Erik Ten Hag manages to turn United’s fortunes around. His start has certainly been very promising. And time will tell if Casemiro goes on to become the club legend he looks set to become. Again, things look promising.
Regardless, though, I thought it was a telling moment that spoke to his self-belief.
This builds on my notes from day before yesterday about Messi and Mbappe – great players come alive in the most challenging of circumstances.
Perhaps that is the truest indicator of our skill level – our ability to come through when the going gets tough.