Ahead of Saturday’s Manchester derby against neighborhood rivals City, former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, a pundit for BT Sport, referred to Casemiro as one of Erik ten Hag’s lieutenants and lauded the positive impact the Brazilian and his manager have had on United since their arrival.
With a victory at Old Trafford this weekend, United can close the gap on the league leaders to just one point, which was unthinkable after Brentford humiliated them in the second round of matches.
Ferdinand said in an interview with 90min ahead of the game that even though United have been playing well lately and City have struggled since the World Cup ended, United are becoming more confident, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that will be enough to defeat what many still consider to be the best team in the Premier League.
“I don’t think there’s always a perfect time to be playing City because they’re that good,” said Ferdinand. “I just think that you look at Manchester United and you look at from their standpoint, they’re playing with a confidence that we haven’t seen for a long time. And they’re playing with individuals that are confident.
“They’re playing like a team that understand what the manager wants now, which has taken time and there’s a culture behind all of that, which is the backdrop to everything that now is supporting what the manager has put in place.”
The signing of Casemiro, who was on the bench for the other league derby this season, has been a significant factor in United’s development in Ferdinand’s view. Marcus Rashford’s improvement since Ten Hag’s arrival has been stealing the headlines lately.
“I think he’s been a huge factor,” he said. “I think the money they paid for him and the way they got him, he’s justified it up to this point in his performances. He epitomises, I think, what the manager is trying to implement. There’s a certain standard every day, day to day at a football club.
“And then obviously during the 90 minutes, it plays out. And in that culture, you need lieutenants to be able to do that – and I think that Casemiro has come in and he’s one of them. He’s a winner and has proven he can go the distance in another league, and in the Champions League as well, numerous times.
“And so those elements there, you put that in the mix and it bodes well if the culture is right and being set right from the top. And it looks like at the moment, Erik ten Hag is doing it.
“He’s not just changing football players the way they think, he’s actually changing human beings and men, their mindsets, and so to do that, it takes time. And there are messages that are consistent and reinforced on a daily basis. I think he’s on the right road to doing that – it’s nowhere near complete yet, but he’s on the right road.”