Manchester United came back to win 3-1 over RC Lens today in their penultimate game of preseason and there was plenty to be gleamed.
The starting eleven seemed to be put together with Wolverhampton Wanderers in mind, and it would be no surprise to see the exact same lineup again a week on Monday.
Certainly, at its heart will be Casemiro, who adds so much to this team that it is a wonder we ever got by without him.
Against the Ligue 1 runners-up, he was at his imperious best once again – hardly a surprise given his levels of consistency.
He was needed in the first half. While United were arguably the better side, there was a nasty habit of allowing the Lens players to get within shooting distance all too easily.
Frustratingly, that was married with a lack of closing down from the defenders on the edge of the box, giving Andre Onana more work to do than was necessary.
The only player who defended actively in these situations was Casemiro, launching into tackles with precision and commitment to retrieve the ball.
Arguably, some teetered awfully close to the brink, and one wonders if a ‘clever’ operator in a competitive Premier League match may have drawn a dangerous foul out of them.
But on the day the tackles – of which there were a whopping seven by the 90th minute – were exactly as needed. Three blocks and two clearances made for an even more impressive defensive display.
Over the course of the match, Casemiro adapted his positioning as needed, dropping deeper in the second half to give his centre halves extra protection while allowing Mason Mount and Bruno Fernandes to push on.
That subtle change gave United more of a direct threat against Lens, pinning them back in key moments. The tactical understanding of the Brazilian superstar is an underrated trait that often makes a huge difference in intangible ways.
More tangibly, Casemiro scored from a corner, although he knew very little about it. A powerful Marcus Rashford header met Luke Shaw‘s set piece, but rather than fly goalwards, it hit the Brazilian… and then flew goalwards!
Job done for The Red Devils, and valuable minutes in the legs. The team will be in Dublin tomorrow for their final preseason outing against Athletic Bilbao, before they begin the Premier League season.