Manchester United finally have personalities worthy of their name – opinion

It is a real shame the increasingly irritating Cristiano Ronaldo sideshow swallowed up Manchester United’s column inches and television talking points over the last week, because whisper it quietly, United are building something good. Not great, not yet, but undoubtedly this is the most positive United fans have felt about a group of players in a long time.

United’s performance against Spurs last week was one of the best performances a United team have produced in a decade, and in a very different, tactical chess match against Chelsea, United earned a credible point with Casemiro’s glorious, towering header. That the squad produced this week as ludicrous, needless fixture rearrangements made an already tricky season more difficult, and questions were being asked after opening October with a derby day hammering.

However, the wild scenes drawing Saturday night to a conclusion speak to a United team made of sterner stuff than the gaggle of psychologically damaged boys and mercantile poltroons we have witnessed in recent years. It shouldn’t need saying that a five-time Champions League winner is a very good footballer, but there are those who apparently still need reminding of the fact that Casemiro, is indeed excellent, adding calmness, acumen and bloody mindedness to his new team.

Frenkie de Jong was Erik ten Hag’s primary target, but he wasn’t interested in moving and Casemiro was, and it’s been a prodigious boon for United. Over last two weeks he has instantly helped stiffen United’s defensive resolve and exert control in midfield. Realistically he is the first midfielder United have signed who is an actual replacement for Michael Carrick. Something which reflects poorly on the club’s baffling recruitment decisions over the last ten years.

Partnered with him in midfield was the ever-silky Christian Eriksen, a man who United should have tried to sign years ago when he was still plying his trade at Ajax, but better late than never as he is an absolute class act. How lovely it is to watch a Manchester United midfielder look comfortable on the ball and always able to find space. It’s been a low bar for him to clear compared to recent predecessors but to see him return to the level of performance he has after almost dying on the field just over a year ago is genuinely astonishing. Should United continue the clear progression under Ten Hag, a proper manager at last, Eriksen may finally achieve the success his rich talent deserves.

We had already begun to warm to Lisandro Martinez after legions of “Proper Football Men” wrote him off for not being seven-and-a-half foot tall ogre, who spent his days heading footballs away in a boggy field. Thankfully his manager knew better, and his aggression, rhythm and lovely left foot had seen him form a very promising partnership with Raphael Varane, who has been fabulous since returning to the team. Hopefully Varane’s unfortunate setback at the weekend, won’t keep him out too long as, this season, he has demonstrated why he has been one of the world’s best defenders.

Antony has been something of a wildcard. Arguably, United massively overpaid for a player with relatively little high-level experience. Moreover, he is absurdly one footed for someone of his potential, but my goodness what a magnificently entertaining, skilful and effective menace he has been! Celebrating in an opponent’s face after a late equaliser will do little to endear you to most people bar your own fans. Antony, however, does not seem to give much of a toss at all. He has relished the physical challenges of English football, proving deceptively difficult to muscle off the ball and gaining some ethereal power from worming his way under the skin of the opposition and he clearly has a predatory eye for goal.

These four new signings, along with the effervescent and spiky Tyrell Malacia, have proven to be a much different profile from signings made in recent years. Ability allied with relentless determination and tenacity, as opposed to talent and a name to get retweets and shirt sales. United have tended to be successful signing talent with a chip on their shoulder, it has what has made Bruno Fernandes such a success and Fred, for some of his shortcomings, a cult favourite and increasingly valuable midfield option.

What is more promising, is how United fans have responded to what they’re seeing. The atmosphere against Spurs was deafening wall of sound which seemed to energize the players into suffocating Antonio Conte’s shell-shocked players. Against Chelsea, the scenes in the away end that greeted Casemiro’s equaliser were something of a throwback to wild scenes of fifteen-to-twenty years ago, with a throng of travelling fans in a riot of delirium as Casemiro joyously howled into the mayhem.

United may not be quite back yet, but they are on the way.

More Stories Antony Casemiro Erik ten Hag Lisandro Martinez Manchester United tyrell malacia