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Just In: Manchester United’s yellow card record under Erik ten Hag hints at new Premier League approach

The Premier League is often labelled as Europe’s most physical, intense and demanding league. When Pep Guardiola joined Manchester City in the 2016/17 season, it was a baptism of fire for the Spaniard, as his side finished 15 points adrift of eventual champions Chelsea’s

Although it would be six years before Ten Hag joined United, he was well aware of the mishap that Guardiola made all those years ago.

Speaking during his time at Ajax, Ten Hag said: “Only once in his career has Pep made a mistake – in his first year at Manchester City when he completely ­underestimated the power and speed of the Premier League.

“He realised that you can’t play the kind of football he loves without ­having a couple of physically strong athletes – and so he brought them in. So he’s not a stubborn coach. Yes, he is stubborn in his ­philosophy, but not in the ­execution.”

It may have taken two bruising and sobering defeats to Brighton and Brentford to kick-start United’s season, but the Dutchman knew exactly what he needed to do.

Casemiro’s arrival at Old Trafford saw the Brazilian bring with him a wealth of experience, a winning mentality and a perfect teacher for United’s squad to master the dark arts of the game.

The former Real Madrid man picked up 11 yellow cards in La Liga last season, the most of any Madrid player. Casemiro is no fool however – he has never been shown a straight red card in over 450 appearances throughout his career.

In fact, the 30-year-old has only been sent off twice in his entire career, on both occasions for receiving two yellow cards in a match – the most recent of these came against Barcelona in October 2021 when he received two yellow cards in two minutes during the closing stages of El Clasico.

Ten Hag knew exactly the type of player he was getting when Casemiro made the move this summer, and although he has yet to start his new signing in the Premier League, the club’s change in philosophy that led to his arrival has been clear to see.

United have received 20 yellow cards from their six Premier League games so far this season, second only to Fulham (21) and 15 more than rivals City and Liverpool (5). Scott McTominay has picked up four yellow cards already, as he finds himself one mistimed tackled away from a suspension.

This season, the Reds are picking up 3.33 yellow cards per match under Ten Hag, compared to 1.97 per 90 during the 2021/22 campaign. Players making ‘necessary’ fouls is a vital part of the modern game, and something that, when employed correctly, can make the difference between winning and losing.

Given Casemiro and McTominay’s tendencies to pick up their fair share of cautions, it is perhaps no surprise that the duo have not played alongside each other. Ten Hag however, will know that he has two players in the holding midfield role who can both stamp their authority on the match – without straying over the thin amber line from a yellow to red card.

United’s new manager knew that the Premier League would represent a physical challenge, as he saw the mistake that Guardiola made all those years ago. Ten Hag will no doubt be stressing the importance of keeping 11 players on the pitch to his side, but the Dutchman is clearly allowing his team to test that theory to the limit.

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