Ten Hag hails ‘brilliant’ Casemiro as United close in on top-four finish

Erik Ten Hag hailed the impact of Casemiro at Manchester United and says he has “by far” exceeded the expectations he had when he signed the midfielder from Real Madrid.

Casemiro scored the only goal of the game as United beat Bournemouth 1-0, meaning they now need just a point to ensure they qualify for next season’s Champions League.

And Ten Hag says he has had a “massive contribution” to United closing in on top-four qualification.

“Absolutely, by far,” the United boss said when asked whether Casemiro had exceeded his expectations.

“One of the things that came out of our analysis was that we missed a player in midfield, a strategist. We searched for a strategist but it was not easy because there are not many in that profile who fits the standards of Manchester United.

“We are happy we found him and his contribution is massive. I think we missed him for eight or nine games by suspension and at the start of the season he was not even there, so many games he was not even there.

“But I think when he plays in midfield it’s a good balance and we’ve had a lot of wins with this midfield.

“He’s such a brilliant football player. We know him as being very good at organisation positioning, anticipating, intercepting a lot of balls, winning duels, a fighter, keeping the team together.

“But also, in possession, his passing and his distribution but also his finishing. He’s a great football player.”

United were moments away from securing a top-four finish, only for a late Liverpool equaliser at Aston Villa to mean they still need a point from their remaining two games.

Ten Hag insists he was not monitoring Liverpool’s result during his side’s game and was delighted with his United’s overall performance.

“I’m very happy, I think the first 25 minutes was a very good performance from our team,” he said.

“Maybe one of the highest levels this season. It’s the way we want to play football, pin the opponent back, good on the ball, a lot of movements, a good counter-press and press against a good team in Bournemouth.

“We created chances and scored a brilliant goal.”

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