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Casemiro exclusive: Energised Man Utd star looking to future at Old Trafford

Casemiro speaks exclusively to Sky Sports, discussing his and Manchester United's difficulties this season, playing at centre-back, continuing to play in the Premier League with Man Utd and the FA Cup final against rivals Manchester City

Manchester United's Casemiro during the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Picture date: Saturday March 9, 2024.
Image: Casemiro insists he still has the energy and mentality to play in the Premier League

Casemiro insists he still has the energy and mentality to play in the Premier League, with the Brazil international looking to the future at Manchester United.

In what has been a difficult season at Man Utd, Casemiro, who has featured at centre-back in recent weeks under Erik ten Hag, has come in for criticism, with the 32-year-old questioned as to whether he can cope with the physicality and intensity of the Premier League.

However, Casemiro - citing the examples of Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah and Thiago Silva who are all in their thirties - says age is not an issue as he plans for the future at Old Trafford.

'Age isn't an issue, I feel healthy'

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Watch highlights from the Premier League match between Manchester United and Newcastle United

"I feel very well, very well," he told Sky Sports. "I'm really well, I feel healthy, with energy and the same mentality I always had.

"I guess people end up talking about the age factor, but it's been proven. Recently, our friend Thiago Silva, at the age of 39 coming here and showing that, yes, you can play. The previous Ballon d'Or winners were over 34.

"At Man City, there's Kevin De Bruyne. (Mo) Salah at Liverpool. I think age is not an issue, it is not a factor in this, but analysing one's game and knowing about everything that is happening around the game.

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South American football expert Tim Vickery believes Fred's departure from Manchester United may have contributed to Casemiro's poor form this season

"These are people who analyse football well, who see what's happening, who know what's happening, analysing not the age.

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"But I'm well, I'm happy, living every day I get to play here. As I usually say, Manchester United gave me what I wanted. This joy of being able to enjoy the game, enjoy the Premier League. So, I'm happy to be here at Manchester United and enjoying the game."

'Injuries a huge factor in United's difficult season'

Casemiro at full-time after Manchester United's defeat at Crystal Palace.
Image: Casemiro looks frustrated at full-time after Manchester United's defeat at Crystal Palace

Casemiro was a hugely-influential figure for United last season, helping them finish third in the Premier League to qualify for the Champions League and scoring in the Carabao Cup final as they beat Newcastle to lift the trophy at Wembley.

However, this season it has been a different story. United have faced numerous challenges on and off the field, including a change of structure right at the top of the club with Sir Jim Ratcliffe's INEOS coming into run the football operations.

On the pitch, a crippling injury list has seen United struggle in the Premier League, while Erik ten Hag's side exited the Champions league at the group stage. They do still have an FA Cup final to play against Manchester City on May 25, but Casemiro admits it has been a hugely-challenging season for him and his side.

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Vickery says Casemiro and Manchester United's form is the reason for the midfielder's omission from the Brazil squad, but admits the door is not closed for the former Real Madrid man

"We had I think over 60, 70 injuries," he said. "I've never seen this in my life. And, without a doubt, my season, it's far from being the best, but I had a big injury, which was going to keep me away initially for a month and a half. That changed to three months.

"I came back, felt something again. The past five, six matches, playing as a centre-back because we didn't have other players for that position. So, I played there, kind of trying to cover a hole where we didn't have players available.

"When you have 60, 70 injuries, it is hard. It is hard to win, it is hard to think about winning a Premier League. You have so many injuries, of important players, players that you think will be able to play throughout the season, and you can't count on them."

'It's been a season of sacrifices for us all'

Casemiro on filling in at centre-back for Man Utd:

“The manager came to ask me and I told him I’m always available. That’s the way I am, my style, trying to help, committing to the team and to the coaching staff. So, when he asked me, I didn’t even hesitate. I wanted to help and made myself available.

“Of course, he knows it himself, and anyone who understands a bit more, it is not my position, not my natural place to play. I’m playing a different role because we have a lot of injured players.

“But as I said, it’s been a season of a lot of sacrifices for all of us, with the injuries and players adapting. So, it’s been very hard for us.”

'Criticism part of football, but you need to analyse whole situation'

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Roy Keane, Wayne Rooney and Paul Merson reflect on Arsenal's winning goal and how Manchester United's Casemiro played a huge part by playing Kai Havertz onside

When asked how he has coped with the challenges and criticism he has faced this season, Casemiro added: "It's hard, especially when it's not an analysis of the whole situation," he said.

"At the start of the season, at the start of my season, I got the trophy of best player of the month, elected by the fans here. Right after that I picked up an injury, a big injury. Came back, then the injury returned, now playing as a centre-back. It is hard - this is a wider analysis, I'm giving you more ample analysis.

"Injured players. I think never at any point of the season the manager had like 25 senior players available. So not only for me, for the players, but also for the manager it's very challenging. For the club it's very challenging.

"But criticism is a part of football. And I'm always very calm, especially with the criticism. When it's constructive criticism, it's always welcomed. Especially in football, when you've been playing high level for 10 years and you drop your level a little, the criticism is going to come, criticism is always going to come."

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Casemiro targeting FA Cup glory to finish season on high

Casemiro was partly to blame for Burnley's equaliser
Image: Casemiro has filled in at centre-back because of Man Utd's injury crisis

United do have the chance to finish the season on a high when they face rivals Man City in the FA Cup final on May 25.

It is a repeat of last season's final, which ended in defeat for United, but Casemiro is hoping for a different outcome this time around as he targets finishing the season with silverware.

"When you talk about Manchester United, always wanting to fight for titles, you always have to speak about titles," he said. "I'm not the only one who says it, everyone says it when speaking about it.

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"The club is in a period of adaptation and this year, we've had a very tough season. There's so many things we can discuss, even with the new owners coming, the transition of who's taking over the club, who isn't, so many things.

"But always, when you talk about Manchester United, you talk of titles, of the biggest club in England, for its history. So, when you have the chance of playing for a trophy as important as the FA Cup, and we know how big it is here in England, we have to enjoy it and want to win it."

He added: "We know it's going to be a very tough game, very complicated, against probably the best team of the past five years. But I always say that when you want to win titles, a trophy here in England, you'll have to beat City. At some point you'll have to beat City because they will always be there. It's like wanting to win the Champions League, you'll have to beat Real Madrid.

"This is our goal. It's a beautiful final, we have to enjoy this game, we know that. Hopefully we can have many players back. The more the better because it's important to us. But we know it is going to be a very beautiful day for us."

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