Man Utd could’ve signed “monster” Casemiro replacement to partner Mainoo


Manchester United failed to make any new additions to their squad in January.

A striker was the priority for the month, however, the last two matches have highlighted both a problem and a solution to Erik ten Hag’s midfield.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the player United missed out on who could have elevated the side dramatically.

Man United’s midfield dilemma

In the last week of the transfer window, reports indicated that the Old Trafford outfit were in talks to sign Morten Hjulmand.

The Danish midfielder only joined Sporting CP in the summer from Lecce, but he has already excelled in his new surroundings. The Portuguese club have slapped a £68m release clause in the player’s contract, which ultimately meant that the Red Devils couldn’t sign him in the winter.


However, in an alternate reality, the 24-year-old could have been walking onto the Old Trafford pitch against West Ham United on Sunday in place of Casemiro.

The Brazilian returned to the United squad last Sunday against Newport County, and his performance left a lot to be desired. Throughout the game, the 31-year-old was sluggish, wasteful, and completely off the pace, as highlighted by his four fouls and 64% pass accuracy.


Casemiro-Varane-Mainoo-Manchester-United

Casemiro’s performance against Wolverhampton Wanderers this week was slightly better, but his inability to lock down the midfield on his own was glaringly obvious. The former Real Madrid man was dribbled past four times, committed a penalty, and only won five of his 12 ground duels.

How Hjulmand could have unleashed Mainoo

Kobbie Mainoo has been United’s most consistent performer over the last month or so, and it is clear that Ten Hag has realised just how important he is to the side, as he has played every minute of the last four games after he was substituted at half-time against Nottingham Forest.

The 18-year-old skillset is extremely well-rounded, and he has been utilised as a defensive midfielder mainly since coming into the side. However, his last two matches have indicated that his best role may be slightly further forward as a box-to-box number eight, as he has scored in both of them, including a last-minute winner on Thursday, where he showed the world what he’s truly capable of and why he’s such a “special” prospect, as per analyst Ben Mattinson.

Having Hjulmand in the side would allow Mainoo’s creative traits to flourish, as well as his ability to affect the game in the final third. The table below Hjulmand’s statistics from this Europa League season proves why.

Hjulmand’s stats

Stats (per 90)

Hjulmand

Percentile

Tackles

2.70

Top 20%

Tackles won

1.72

Top 22%

Tackles (Mid third)

1.72

Top 7%

Interceptions

1.97

Top 11%

Dribblers tackled

1.23

Top 26%

Stats via FBref

As you can see, Hjulmand is the definition of a “monster” out of possession, as alluded to by journalist Zach Lowy, due to his athleticism and ability to cover ground, unlike Casemiro. The Danish international reads the game brilliantly and mops up in the middle of the pitch, as shown by his interceptions and tackle statistics.

Just by fielding Hjulmand in the starting XI, United would be much more defensively secure in transition, which is where they are currently caught out with Casemiro in the team, and what is preventing the number 37 from pushing on. Therefore, Mainoo could move further forward to provide support to the attacking players while also having the option to drop deeper to get on the ball.


Mainoo-Man-Utd-Ten-Hag

Giving the academy graduate the freedom to express himself anywhere on the field could just see him develop into United’s best midfielder since the days of Paul Scholes.





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