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 at both ends a piece of magic from Casemiro proved the difference at the Vitality Stadium.
The Brazilian 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 and Liverpool’s draw against Aston Villa was enough to move United one point away from a guaranteed top-four spot.
United on track for Champions League return
With Liverpool trailing for much of their match against Aston Villa, United’s win looked like it could be enough to secure Erik ten Hag’s side a top-four place.
But a late Roberto Firmino equaliser means United must now must 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 looked somewhat lacking in 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.