Manchester

Michael Carrick might have shown Manchester United how to play Casemiro and Scott McTominay – Liam Wood

From the moment Ten Hag arrived, hope was restored, but there was still a collective understanding it would take time for the Dutchman to instil his philosophy, and play catch-up at the Premier League summit. That would be the case on the training ground and in the transfer market, as well.

Having pursued Declan Rice for considerable time, even with alarm bells ringing when it came to a valuation, focus turned to Frenkie de Jong when Ten Hag was appointed. In truth, it didn't really matter who that priority target was, United addressed the elephant in the (engine) room to improve on the 'McFred' axis.

Of course, that is the nickname given to the midfield double act Scott McTominay and Fred who have done their utmost to carry the fight for United in recent seasons, without being able to match rivals at the pinnacle. Something had to give this summer and the garishly public chase for De Jong underlined it.

With a new defensive midfielder on the radar and Fred a rare shining light under Ralf Rangnick after his appointment as interim manager, McTominay was favourite to line-up on the bench more regularly even before Ten Hag made his move for Casemiro. And then came another wildcard.

Few believed Christian Eriksen would become a regular starter after signing on a free for United, let alone complete an effective midfield partnership with McTominay. In tandem they have consigned Brazilian duo Fred and Casemiro to the bench for the past four league games all wins.

In one sense, this has enabled United to bide their time with Casemiro, making sure he has settled properly into life in the UK before thrusting such responsibility on him. He was the upgrade United craved so desperately in midfield and will surely be a starter going forward.

On the basis Bruno Fernandes operates as 'number ten' behind three forwards, it leaves one position open for Fred, McTominay and Eriksen to compete for. However, you could strongly argue that recent performances would render that harsh on either McTominay or Eriksen.

But there is a tactical solution here, and it was provided by Michael Carrick during his time at the helm. Standing in when good friend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked, Carrick impressed in a very short spell in charge and he might have trialled something that Ten Hag can pick up.

Due to postponements following the Queen's death, United are not back in Premier League action until they tackle Manchester City in the derby on Sunday, October 2. All eyes will be on that game for Ten Hag now.

The Dutchman's gameplan, though, might have to be tweaked against Pep Guardiola's side, with City expected to dominate the ball in their quest for Mancunian bragging rights. That is where Carrick steps in.

When taking charge against Chelsea in December, the now-former caretaker did away with 4-2-3-1 and sent United out the Stamford Bridge tunnel with a narrow four-man midfield. It caused the Blues problems on the counter and it was only a clumsy penalty decision which stopped them returning home with three points.

That system could allow United to deploy Casemiro as the enforcer without needlessly dropping McTominay or his new partner in crime, Eriksen. Of course, one attack-minded name would be sacrificed, but that might be a necessity against City.