Bournemouth 0 Man Utd 1: Acrobatic Casemiro goal all-but secures Champions League spot as De Gea seals Golden Glove
TEN years after Sir Alex Ferguson made his Manchester United exit, things finally feel like they’re heading in the right direction.
Victory at Bournemouth – over the weekend which marked ten year’s since Fergie’s final game – all-but sealed their place back at Europe’s top table next season in the Champions League, while there is already one trophy in the bag and the potential of a second in a fortnight’s time.
AFPCasemiro scored the only goal of the game at the Vitality Stadium[/caption]
Man Utd are now on the brink of Champions League football next seasonGetty
GettyBournemouth keeper Neto could do nothing about Casemiro’s close-range finish[/caption]
GettyCasemiro scored his first goal since the Carabao Cup final[/caption]
After false dawns and brief peaks under Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, Erik ten Hag finally seems to fit the bill and understand what is needed to get this club back to the big time.
Ten Hag has bought well, as evidenced by Casemiro’s domination and decisive finish, set up by Christian Eriksen, on the South Coast here.
The Dutchman has also got existing players, such as Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, playing at their peak, while stamping out shoddy attitudes throughout the squad.
It’s taken a decade, but there are some standards back at Old Trafford once more.
Ten Hag’s confidence of finishing in the Champions League places has been absolute, though their poor away record heaps the pressure on trips like these.
So an early goal, after just nine minutes, more than eased the nerves and was delivered by one of Man Utd’s most reliable men.
Casemiro has been a revelation in midfield for Ten Hag this season, the former Real Madrid man being comfortably their most important and influential signing.
The Brazilian dominates and dictates like few others, and has now added bicycle kicks to his repertoire.
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The stats for Manchester United’s win over Bournemouth
Renowned for being a monster in the middle, Casemiro showed sharp reactions and light feet to work his acrobatic effort home.
Eriksen lifted a cute ball over the Bournemouth back line, Marcos Senesi’s slight touch lifted it to the perfect height for Casemiro.
Bournemouth took a while to work their way back, though David De Gea did well to stop a low, deflected strike from Dominic Solanke.
De Gea’s clean sheet here was his 17th of the season in the Premier League, securing the Spaniard – who is yet to agree a fresh deal at Old Trafford – the Golden Glove award for the second time in his career.
The chance had got Bournemouth’s tails up.
David Brooks, making his first start in 598 days having battled a cancer diagnosis, started working his way into the game, cutting back for Ryan Christie whose effort was blocked.
The Wales international came close to a first goal since his return too, though saw his effort tipped over by De Gea shortly after the restart.
Bournemouth were pushing, playing with the freedom safety brings.
The Cherries had taunted their critics ahead of kick off with a video clipping up pundits and social media stars, including Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher, tipping them for an immediate return to the Championship.
The doubters have been defied and, with new American ownership, even brighter times await at the Vitality.
But while Gary O’Neil’s side were looking to get back in, United were still in control – though there were clear signs of what is needed over the summer.
Whether it is the Glazers, still heartily protested against by the travelling United fans, or new owners holding the purse strings in the summer – they must be loosened.
With Marcus Rashford ill, Ten Hag had to start with Anthony Martial through the middle before Wout Weghorst was sent on early in the second half looking to seal the three points.
Ten Hag is crying out for a striker to kick this side on – and has made it mightily clear.
He, his coaches and the recruiters need clarity on what there is to spend, ensuring they avoid any embarrassing scrambles for players.
The midfield can chip in with goals – it took a flying save from Neto to deny a dipping Bruno Fernandes effort with 15 minutes to go – but more needs to come from the man up top.
Whether it is Harry Kane or another target, a reliable striker must be found for Ten Hag to continue his work at Old Trafford.
Investment is needed in the middle to ensure, as was the case here, things do not just rest on Casemiro as they have done at times this season.
The Brazilian gives his all and lifts others, pumping his fists to boost De Gea after his fine late save to deny Kieffer Moore, who was sent through one-on-one by Dango Outtara but met by the Spaniard rushing out to him.
But Casemiro must have similar support to that which he dishes out, the Brazilian almost equally responsible for United’s upturn in fortunes as his manager.
Ten Hag has imposed himself on Manchester United, pulled the squad with him and jettisoned those who disrupted – so much so that Cristiano Ronaldo’s dramatic exit is merely a footnote in the story of this first season.
It was never guaranteed either, the former Ajax boss could easily have been swept away in the hysteria following their shocking start with defeats to Brighton and Brentford – but he kept on course and must now be supported to drive forwards through the summer.
Erik ten Hag has guided Man Utd to the brink of a top four placeGetty