BOURNEMOUTH, England -- Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag hailed Casemiro's match-winning performance in their 1-0 victory at Bournemouth and said the midfielder's "contribution is massive" to the club and he has exceeded expectations.
Casemiro scored in the ninth minute of the match as he produced an acrobatic finish to give United a key win at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday meaning they need just one point from their final two matches to secure a top four finish and Champions League qualification.
The goal came off the back of a lofted through-ball from Christian Eriksen; Marcos Senesi tried to hold the ball up, but inadvertently teed up Casemiro who produced a remarkable scissor kick to fire past Neto.
Casemiro been one of the standout players for United this term following his £70 million move from Real Madrid in August and Ten Hag has been delighted with his impact.
When asked if Casemiro has exceeded expectations since his summer move, Ten Hag said: "Absolutely, by far. One of the things came out of our analysis was that we missed a player in the midfield, we studied this and we searched for this, it was not easy because there are not many in the profile who fits to the standard of Manchester United.
"We are happy we found him and his contribution is massive. I think even you miss him over eight or nine games through suspension -- in the start of the season he wasn't even there, but when he plays, you bring balance to the midfield and we've had a lot of wins with this midfield.
"He keeps surprising you. He's such a brilliant football player. We know him as very good with organisation, anticipation, winning duels, fighting and keeping the team together but in possession his passing distribution and finishing is very important," he added.
United were just a few minutes away from securing that top-four finish on Saturday, only for Roberto Firmino's late equaliser against Aston Villa see Liverpool retain a distant hope of gate crashing the Champions League spots.
Despite the drama elsewhere, Ten Hag was not keeping tabs on what was going on at Anfield. "It's not important and I'm telling you for weeks, it's not about our opponents," he said. "We are in the lead, it's only up to us. We have everything in our hands, we don't have to look behind and we have to make our performance and when we do it, there's nothing to do with any other teams apart from the opponent on the day."
The Dutchman was delighted with United's performance against Bournemouth, especially the opening third of the match where they dominated proceedings.
"I am very happy," he said. "The first 25 minutes was a very good performance, maybe one of the highest levels of the season. It's the way we want to play football, pin the opponent back, good counter-press, good press against a good team.
"A clean sheet is always very important to be successful in a season. It's telling something about our structure and plan and dedication from the team and the belief they have in the plan and how they execute it. We also have great players in the pressing, defending and in the end we have a very good goalkeeper."