Erik ten Hag praised Manchester United’s collective efforts defensively after David de Gea collected the Golden Glove award for the goalkeeper with the most Premier League clean sheets.
United’s 1-0 win at Bournemouth brought De Gea his 17th shut-out of the campaign, taking him clear of Liverpool’s Alisson Becker, as well as helping the team to within a point of Champions League qualification.
De Gea has been at fault several times this season, most recently in gifting West Ham a goal in a 1-0 defeat at the London Stadium and as the team crashed out of the Europa League against Sevilla.
Yet against Bournemouth he gave a reminder that his shot-stopping ability and reflexes remain undiminished, making three excellent saves from Dominic Solanke, David Brooks and Kieffer Moore to preserve United’s lead.
Ten Hag agreed that De Gea has been a key factor in the team’s defensive record, which is the third best in the league, but emphasised it has been a group effort.
He also singled out central defenders Victor Lindelof and Raphael Varane in helping United to back-to back clean sheets that have now virtually secured their place in the top four.
“A clean sheet is always very important to be successful in a season,” said Ten Hag.
“I think it’s telling something about our structure, our plan, and it’s telling also something about dedication from the team. The belief they had in this plan and how they execute it.
“If you’re talking about clean sheets, it’s across the whole team, but centre-halves are very important.
“I think they played a really focussed game, really well defended, but I think over many games in April and May it’s Victor together with Rafa is doing great; positioning, duelling. Very good.”
United’s win was secured courtesy of Casemiro’s brilliantly improvised goal in the ninth minute, hooking the ball into the roof of the net after Christian Eriksen’s fine cross had deflected off defender Marcos Senesi.
“We emphasise a lot and we train a lot (that) it’s about the movements when we are in the final third,” he said.
“The movements of course have to come first from the front line, second line just behind, but also from the third one with full-backs, with Casemiro coming from there.
“The movement is great (for the goal), the touch from Christian Eriksen I think is great, and the finish is brilliant.”