Football NewsMan Utd Boost Top Four Hopes With A Crucial Win Over Bournemouth.
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An acrobatic first-half goal from Casemiro put Man Utd in front at Bournemouth, and Erik ten Hag’s side held on for an important victory

United went into the game a point clear of Liverpool.  The squad was aware that six points from their remaining three fixtures would be enough to lock in a top four finish even if the Jurgen Klopp’s side also earned maximum points. They set out like a team determined to get the first three of those on the South Coast, dominating the opening 45 minutes and leading at the break through Casemiro’s acrobatic volley.

It’s been no secret that Man Utd’s shaky end to the season has come at a time of defensive uncertainty. Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez have both found themselves on the sidelines of late, but the Frenchman returned to the starting line-up against Bournemouth.

While Luke Shaw has been an able deputy at the heart of the defence, his move into the centre meant United lost the balance provided by the England man. With Shaw back on the left, though this returned.

It wasn’t the toughest game for Varane, with Bournemouth struggling to gain a foothold. He’ll argue his presence in the side played a part in that, though, and a calm late interception to stop a dangerous Cherries break spoke to that.

Erik ten Hag’s front-line has been fluid for much of the season, with players changing positions both between and during games. On this occasion, the line-up suggested Jadon Sancho would start left with Bruno Fernandes through the middle, though the pair alternated for an early chance.

United have tried different things when Marcus Rashford has been available, no team-mate has adequately replaced his threat from the left on a consistent basis. The central threat without him has also been questionable, and on this occasion Anthony Martial was close to anonymous before making way for Wout Weghorst.

Sub striker Weghorst was after his first Premier League goal since joining in January, and it needed a sharp Neto save to deny him shortly after the hour mark. It was a frustrating outing for the man he replaced, though, with Martial seen shaking his head as he walked down the tunnel.

Erik ten Hag has repeatedly spoken about his hopes for David de Gea to extend his Old Trafford stay, and high-profile recent mistakes haven’t changed that. The Spaniard attempted to show his struggles against Sevilla and West Ham haven’t affected him, pulling out a sharp save in an otherwise quiet first half to keep Dominic Solanke at bay.

Some Man Utd fans will have an eye on a different goalkeeper ahead of the new campaign, whether that’s a current Premier League starter such as David Raya or someone from outside the league. Some may even feel it’s time to give Dean Henderson a run, with the Englishman impressing on loan at Nottingham Forest before injury struck.

In truth, Neto was the busier of the two keepers, keeping his team in the game. However, that meant De Gea needed to be at his alert best to deny Kieffer Moore what could have been a late leveller.

As half-time whistles sounded across the country, Man Utd were 45 minutes away from a top four finish. Their lead – combined with Liverpool trailing at the break – meant that if things stayed the same then Champions League football would be guaranteed.