Bournemouth: An acrobatic volley from Casemiro helped Manchester United clinch a 1-0 win over Bournemouth in their Premier League clash at the Vitality Stadium, leaving the club with the task of clinching atleast one point from their final two fixtures to seal their spot in the UEFA Champions League.
Liverpool's 1-1 draw against Aston Villa at Anfield, which took place alongside United's match, saw Jurgen Klopp's side drop two valuable points which could have solidified their chances of a top-four finish and also a Champions League qualification. Liverpool has just a game to go, against Southampton away from home next Sunday are three points behind Manchester United. If Erik Ten Hag's side takes any points against Chelsea and Fulham, they wil secure a final-four finish and qualify for the Champions League.
Currently Manchester United is in the fourth spot with 21 wins, six draws and nine losses in their 36 matches. They have a total of 69 points as compared to Liverpool, which sits at fifth with 66 points after winning 19, drawing and losing nine each of their 37 games.
Bournemouth is at the 14th position with 11 wins, six draws and 20 losses in their 37 games, with a total of 39 points.
United was not really convincing in their victory, with Casemiro slamming the ball into the top corner to give his side the points needed to return to Europe's elite football clubs in the Champions League.
Marcus Rashford dealt Manchester United an early setback, as he failed to travel to the south coast due to illness, while David Brooks made his first start since September 2021 after recovering from cancer for Bournemouth.
But with his volley, Casemiro made up for Rashford's absence within just nine minutes, volleying in after Marcos Senesi was unsuccessful in clearing Christian Eriksen's smart chipped pass.
United was dominant in the opening minutes of the game. But Bournemouth, having avoided relegation and essentially left with nothing to play for, started to make their presence felt as the game progressed.
David De Gea saved a deflected attempt from Dominic Solanke, while Raphael Varane made a key block from Ryan Christie after Antony, who had another dismal day, gave the ball away with an awful backheel.
Soon after halftime, De Gea tipped Brooks' rasping drive over before United regained control, with Neto saving from Wout Weghorst before tipping away Bruno Fernandes' superb volley.
The visitors' Man United retreated to their own half as the game went on and the hosts came close to levelling the scores twice.
De Gea produced an important save from a close-range effort by Kieffer Moore and a sensational late volley by Marcos Senesi flew over the crossbar, with United barely able to cling to their important three points.
After the match, Erik ten Hag hailed Casemiro for his impactful performances in his first season with United at Old Trafford.
"He keeps surprising us. He is such a brilliant football player. We know him as very good (at) organisation, positioning, anticipating, intercepting a lot of balls, winning duels, a fighter. Also in possession, his passing and distribution, but also finishing. Just a great football player," said Ten Hag as quoted by Sky Sports.
On whether Casemiro had exceeded expectations since his arrival from Real Madrid just last summer, ten Hag said, "Absolutely, by far. We missed a player in the midfield. We searched and it was not easy because there are not many in the profile whose standard fits the standard of Manchester United. We are happy we found him and his contribution is massive."
On Liverpool's draw against Aston Villa which gives United an edge, the manager said, "It is not important, I am telling you already for weeks it is not about our opponents. We are in the lead, it is only up to us, we have everything in our hands, we do not have to look behind. We have to make our performance. It has nothing to do with any other team, it has to do with the opponent on the day."
Bournemouth head to lock horns with relegation-threatened Everton in their last outing of the Premier League.
Man United will host Chelsea at Old Trafford on Thursday, before wrapping up their season against Fulham at home.