Casemiro is key to Erik ten Hag’s ‘dynamic and variable football’ at Manchester United as he recalls childhood encounter with Johan Cruyff and discusses inspiring ‘adventurous’ philosophy
Erik ten Hag tapped into his fascinating philosophy of football, courtesy of Casemiro and Johan Cruyff.
The Manchester United manager was speaking after a 3-1 win over Reading, in which Casemiro scored a brace and Fred added another.
Coming from the Ajax school of football, where the Dutch tradition of ‘total football’ is often cited, he is now in vogue at Old Trafford.
The biggest example of this is Casemiro himself, who now has nine goals since joining the Premier League, double the number he recorded at Real Madrid last season, in almost half of the games.
And defensive midfielder getting involved around the opposition box is exactly what Ten Hag wants to see, as he told ITV.
“We know he’s a great player,” he began. “In the Madrid midfield with [Toni] Kroos and [Luka] Modric was great. I think he is capable, you see offensively he appreciates that.
“What I like is dynamic football with variations, with lots of positions, switches. You have to make the opponent think, to take advantage of it. »
Ten Hag then showed a clip of himself on Dutch TV as a child, sitting alongside Ajax and Dutch legend Cruyff, and questioned the managerial style of the ‘icon.
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“A long time ago,” he replied. “He had such an impact on football like Pelé, [Franz] Beckenbauer and [Diego] Maradona.
“I think I was brave. I wanted to be a good footballer and I wanted to learn.
“He was a big inspiration for the way you should play football. Johan Cruyff wasn’t just looking to win games – obviously he was a big winner, but also in a way; adventure, an offensive way and always with creative solutions.
Ten Hag has replicated Cruyff before at Ajax, with his adventurous style building two different teams capable of battling it out in the Champions League.
He now looks set to do the same with Manchester United, and it’s no surprise that Casemiro is key.
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