Casemiro’s stunning overhead kick edged Manchester United a step closer to a top-four finish as they secured a narrow Premier League victory over Bournemouth.
The Red Devils need just one point from their final two games against Chelsea and Fulham to secure Champions League football at Old Trafford next season.
In a game lacking in clear-cut opportunities a piece of magic from Casemiro proved the difference at the Vitality Stadium.
The Brazilian midfielder picked up a beautifully weighted pass from Christian Eriksen and turned away from Marcos Senesi to acrobatically hammer home.
Without their top goal scorer this season, Marcus Rashford, who was absent from the squad with illness and missed the opportunity to equal his best tally of 17 goals in a single campaign, United struggled to mount regular goal threats.
But Casemiro’s ninth-minute strike, combined with Liverpool’s draw against Aston Villa, were enough to move United one point away from guaranteeing a top-four spot.
United on track for Champions League return
With Liverpool trailing for much of their match against Villa, United’s win looked like it could be enough to secure Erik ten Hag’s side their place in next season’s Champions League.
But a late Roberto Firmino equaliser means United must now wait until Thursday at the earliest to ensure the return of Europe’s top competition to Old Trafford after a season-long absence.
Meanwhile, as Red Devils fans also await news on who their new owner will be, there can be few complaints from supporters about the job Ten Hag has done.
Winning the Carabao Cup, preparing to face Manchester City in the FA Cup final at Wembley on 3 June and on the brink of securing a top-four place is an impressive feat for the Dutch manager’s first foray into the Premier League.
While rumours are circulating about the future of long-serving goalkeeper David de Gea, the result at Anfield also means the Spanish shot-stopper has done enough to secure the Golden Glove, having kept 16 clean sheets this term.
All United’s achievements come despite a poor away record – they have only earned eight points from nine top-flight away matches in 2023, and equalled the club record for most Premier League away defeats in a season (eight).
As was the case against Wolves last week, the Red Devils at times lacked urgency against Bournemouth with Dominic Solanke twice going close and David Brooks forcing a fingertip save from De Gea.
Bruno Fernandes saw a shot deflected wide and a second powerful effort saved by Neto but in Rashford’s absence United’s potency in front of goal was lacking.
Wout Weghorst hit a sweet strike late on but it was punched away by the Bournemouth keeper, meaning the Dutch striker’s hunt for a first Premier League goal for the club continues.
“The only criticism is we didn’t kill off the game, we had to produce that second goal but that’s the way this team are. It is not easy scoring goals,” Ten Hag told BBC Sport.
“It was a great goal from Casemiro. We pinned them back, didn’t let them breathe in the first 25 minutes.
“I don’t care what happens in Liverpool, it’s about us. We have to do the job.”
Cherries safe but defensive improvements needed
Many pundits and fans had written Bournemouth off before the start of the season, tipping them to return straight back to the Championship.
But manager Gary O’Neil has done a fine job, meaning a relatively flat match at the Vitality did not matter as he has already seen his side move well clear of the relegation battle.
Bournemouth sit 14th in the league and face relegation-threatened Everton in their last game of the season at Goodison Park.
The Cherries have, however, conceded 70 Premier League goals in 2022-23, equalling their highest-ever figure from 2018-19 and O’Neil will have to solve those defensive frailties to ensure his side progress next season.
But they did well to limit United to just one goal on Saturday and spurned their own opportunities to level with Kieffer Moore’s strike producing a fine stop from De Gea.
“We were good, we gave everything in a close game. We were right in it and had a big chance at the end,” O’Neil told BBC Sport.
With their safety confirmed Bournemouth will now look towards building a squad that can further extend their stay in the top flight next year.
“I am very proud of the group, it was a big mountain we had to climb. We achieved something that not many people thought we could,” said O’Neil.
The home fans also celebrated the return of Brooks to the starting 11 – for the first time in 598 days after he was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin’s lymphoma in October 2021.
“For his first game back after such a long time David showed some great touches. Pre-season will be big for him but I’m delighted to have him back. He will be a good option for us next season,” said O’Neil.
Player of the match
with an average of 8.07
Squad number21Player nameMoore
Squad number7Player nameBrooks
Squad number9Player nameSolanke
Squad number32Player nameAnthony
Squad number18Player nameViña
Squad number15Player nameA Smith
Squad number13Player nameNeto
Squad number4Player nameL Cook
Squad number25Player nameSenesi
Squad number11Player nameOuattara
Squad number8Player nameLerma
Squad number10Player nameChristie
Squad number27Player nameZabarnyi
Squad number5Player nameKelly
Squad number18Player nameCasemiro
Squad number14Player nameEriksen
Squad number49Player nameGarnacho
Squad number19Player nameVarane
Squad number23Player nameShaw
Squad number29Player nameWan-Bissaka
Squad number1Player namede Gea
Squad number2Player nameLindelöf
Squad number8Player nameBruno Fernandes
Squad number21Player nameAntony
Squad number39Player nameMcTominay
Squad number17Player nameFred
Squad number25Player nameSancho
Squad number9Player nameMartial
Squad number27Player nameWeghorst
- 15A SmithSubstituted forViñaat 66′minutes
- 4L CookBooked at 70mins
- 7BrooksSubstituted forMooreat 55′minutes
- 10ChristieSubstituted forOuattaraat 66′minutes
- 1de Gea
- 14EriksenSubstituted forMcTominayat 86′minutes
- 21AntonySubstituted forFredat 86′minutes
- 8Bruno Fernandes
- 25SanchoSubstituted forGarnachoat 72′minutes
- 9MartialSubstituted forWeghorstat 57′minutes
- Chris Kavanagh
Match ends, Bournemouth 0, Manchester United 1.
Second Half ends, Bournemouth 0, Manchester United 1.
Attempt missed. Marcos Senesi (Bournemouth) left footed shot from outside the box is just a bit too high following a set piece situation.
Foul by Casemiro (Manchester United).
Dango Ouattara (Bournemouth) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Scott McTominay (Manchester United) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top left corner. Assisted by Wout Weghorst.
Fred (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jefferson Lerma (Bournemouth).
Corner, Bournemouth. Conceded by Victor Lindelöf.
Foul by Casemiro (Manchester United).
Matías Viña (Bournemouth) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Substitution, Manchester United. Fred replaces Antony.
Substitution, Manchester United. Scott McTominay replaces Christian Eriksen.
Attempt missed. Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Casemiro following a fast break.
Foul by Wout Weghorst (Manchester United).
Neto (Bournemouth) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Kieffer Moore (Bournemouth) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Dango Ouattara with a through ball.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match because of an injury Alejandro Garnacho (Manchester United).
Attempt missed. Alejandro Garnacho (Manchester United) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Casemiro.
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