Manchester United are on the verge of qualifying for the Champions League after a 1-0 win over Bournemouth put them within one point of returning to Europe’s fine dining table.
Casemiro’s acrobatic first-half strike was enough to secure the three points at the Vitality Stadium, with the Brazilian international scoring in both games against the Cherries this season.
The former Real Madrid star has been the catalyst for change at United this season and he was the subject of special praise from manager Erik ten Hag for his match-winning performance on the south coast.
“I think he keeps surprising us, Casemiro. He’s such a brilliant football player,” Ten Hag is quoted as saying by the Manchester Evening News.
“We know him as a very good organiser, positioning, anticipating, intercepting a lot of balls, winning duels, fighting, keep the team together. But also in possession, his passing, his distribution, but also finishing. He’s just a great football player.
“Absolutely (he has exceeded expectations), by far. So I think one of the things that came out of our analysis, we miss a player in the midfield, a strategist.
“We searched for the strategist. It was not easy because there are not that many in the profile who fits to the standards of Manchester United. So we are happy we found him and his contribution is massive.
“I think even we miss him over eight games by suspension. He was in the start of the season not even there, so many games he was not even there. But when he plays in midfield it’s good in balance. We had a lot of wins with this midfield.”
Supporters were struck by how quickly Casemiro acclimatised to the squad and a new league but evidently, Ten Hag was also pleasantly surprised by the midfielder’s immediate impact.
As Ten Hag crucially points out, Casemiro has missed eight games due to suspension this season and if he was available for those games, it’s fair to assume that a top-four finish would already have been secured.
Casemiro is in the running to be named United’s Player of the Season, with top goalscorer Marcus Rashford also one of the hot favourites to win the prize.