Luke Shaw might have helped Manchester United find their Casemiro replacement
There is an acceptance that Manchester United won’t be able to address all the problems they’d like to this summer.
It is well documented that Erik ten Hag is prioritising the addition of an elite striker and another creative midfielder to his team, while there is also an interest in adding cover at right-back, centre-back and in goal.
In an ideal world, United would also sign another defensive midfielder to ease the burden on Casemiro so that there is not such a noticeable drop-off in quality when he is not available.
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Although his level has dropped in recent weeks, there is an argument to be made that the Brazilian has been their best player this season; he certainly has been the most transformational. United have won just half of the 10 Premier League matches they have played without him.
Casemiro could reach 53 appearances by the end of the season; he has never played more than 48 times across a single club campaign. It would have been more if not for two suspensions, which would push the demands even further on their experienced midfielder.
Given their priorities lie elsewhere, United are unlikely to address their needs for an alternative this summer. It means they will still have an overreliance on Casemiro next season unless they can find an internal solution.
The good news is they might have one, and now they have even more reason to use him.
Lisandro Martinez has long been touted as a possible replacement in defensive midfield but has yet to make an appearance there due to his importance in central defence.
Ten Hag is a huge admirer of the Argentine defender and sees him as a crucial cog in the United team given his unique traits as a left-footed centre-back who can break up attacks as well as he builds them.
There has always been a worry that by moving him up into midfield they would lose out more in defence, though in recent weeks Luke Shaw has proven he can be a worthy replacement when required.
During their time together at Ajax, Ten Hag claimed Martinez ‘did not have the running capacity’ to play in midfield, though since moving to United he appears to be more open to such a position switch.
“He did it before (for Ajax),” Ten Hag admitted back in January. “This is also one thing that me as a manager, have to be creative in certain situations when in other departments you have players who can’t be starting XI players, because I can only play one player in that position. Maybe we can move the departments and be creative to form the team.”
The reality is that while Martinez is certainly an option in defensive midfield, he has only ever played there in 22 competitive matches, so he is not necessarily an improvement on the other candidates United have.
The only way of knowing would be by giving him a chance to go there and see for themselves, and that is certainly something that he is open to doing if it helps the team.
“We have many good midfielders and like I have always said in many interviews, I will play wherever the coach wants to use me,” he said earlier in the season. “I will always be available.”
The problem right now is he’s not available after suffering a season-ending injury. It is still unclear when Martinez will be back in action, but pre-season might be the perfect opportunity to experiment with him in a midfield role without the pressure of getting a result.
While there was a previous reluctance to move him further up the field, the recent performances of Shaw in central defence suggest that it might be worth the gamble as they look for a suitable solution.
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