Manchester United managed back-to-back wins for the first time this season after defeating Crystal Palace at Old Trafford to progress into the fourth round of the Carabao Cup.
In a much changed side put out by Erik Ten Hag, the players representing the Red Devils did not disappoint. The likes of Hannibal Mejbri and Casemiro kept their places from the weekend, but it was a side full of fresh rotation and opportunity.
Making his full debut was Sofyan Amrabat, who arrived in the dying embers of the summer transfer window on an initial season-long loan from ACF Fiorentina. Manchester United had been chasing him all summer and it was evident to see why.
It did not take long for Amrabat, who started the game as a left back, to introduce himself to the Old Trafford crowd. The Moroccan played most of the first half as another body in midfield, routinely getting on the ball and dictating the tempo of the game – which has been a huge missing piece in Man United’s armoury.
A common theme throughout Manchester United’s games this season has been the ease of which the opposition are able to bypass their midfield and create chances in the final third. The Red Devils have looked open and Casemiro, in particularly, through no fault of his own, stranded on an island looking for support.
Well, that support looks to have arrived now in Amrabat. Once fully up and running with a few more matches in his locker, it looks evident that, especially in tough away fixtures, having Amrabat sitting alongside Casemiro provides the quality and rigidness needed in retrieving results.
The ex-Fiorentina player looks enormously comfortable on the ball, in which he consistently showed himself available to receive it and looked forward, as well as portraying his engine in the middle of the park. Having started at left back, there was a moment in which he found himself leading the press against Roy Hodgson’s team on the right-hand side.
Injuries have certainly not helped United, who are missing 12 first team players, but the arrival of Amrabat is going to solve a lot of their immediate problems. Although he only played 60 minutes, it was plain to see that he makes others around him calmer in possession.
The Moroccan’s ability to slow down the pace of the game, or pick it up, depending on the options in front of him, is a key skillset in the middle of the park, and one Manchester United have needed.
Casemiro continues to add goals and assists to his name with two more against Palace, taking his tally to five for the season. He remains Manchester United’s top goalscorer and continues to be a sizeable threat in front of goal from set-pieces. His on-the-ball passing range was in full swing this evening, which should only become more prevalent with a steady rock in Amrabat alongside him.
With injured players returning to the fold for Manchester United, there should be a fair amount of positivity brewing in the weeks to come.