Man United 2-1 Brentford: Scott McTominay’s stoppage time brace seals dramatic late win for Erik ten Hag’s side after Mathias Jensen’s first-half goal for the Bees
- Scott McTominay scored twice in stoppage time to cancel out Mathias Jensen’s first-half goal
- Man United fans observed a round of applause for the late Lady Cathy Ferguson ahead of kick-off
- Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’ with Ian Ladyman and Chris Sutton
Mark it down as a turning point; Erik ten Hag will. Sometimes you have to grasp at moments, imbue them with significance beyond what might seem logical. But when Harry Maguire flicked on and Scott McTominay headed home, as the clocked ticked over 96 minutes allotted to play, Old Trafford roared in a way that hasn’t been heard this season.
Never mind the fact that the unlikeliest heroes of the day were the unsung McTominay and Maguire. Three minutes previously this United team and Erik ten Hag in particular were heading for a whole heap of ignominy and a cacophony of boos.
Not since 1962-63 had they lost three successive home games in all competitions. Here they came mightily close to matching that record.
Brentford had done little wrong until the 93rd minute when keeper Thomas Strakosha parried Diogo Dalot’s shot. It fell to McTominay, who spun and shot like a nimble Latin American to equalise, part one of his Super Man routine.
That was enough for Old Trafford to erupt, mainly from relief. The atmosphere here is always poised to turned nasty at this rudderless club and another home defeat after Crystal Palace and Galatasaray would have been more than sufficient to start a fire.
Scott McTominay was the hero of the afternoon – substituted just three minutes before time, he quickly reversed Man United’s fortunes
Whilst his first goal dragged the Red Devils back into the tie, his second looked like the Manchester United of old
Erik ten Hag still has cause for concern but the vital win at home should somewhat abate growing tension at Old Trafford
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So the equaliser saved that. But the winner? Well that was straight from the old United playbook. You remember? The team long ago that never gave in, who always scored. The stakes may be lower these day – it was Brentford 2023, not Barcelona 1999 – but feelings remained the same. It was enough of an endorphin hit to flood the negativity, mute the aggression and make this club believe again.
Of course, the substance of this moment will be tested in the coming weeks. Was this a mere emotional bandage, a time saver for Ten Hag, or the start of the rest of the season? For Brentford will curse their meltdown at the end because for most of this game, there was one team at Old Trafford playing with confidence to a coherent tactical plan. And one which look increasingly lost, a bunch of individuals desperately seeking leader and some strategy.
The opening goal on 28 minutes itself demonstrated just how incoherent and short of confidence United are. They fell behind from a move that started with their own free kick. They played it out from the box and Casemiro flinched under challenge from the irrepressible Bryan Mbeumo, who won the ball back.
Danish midfielder Mathias Jensen put Brentford ahead after 26 minutes after capitalising on defensive errors by the hosts
A diving Andre Onana was unable to prevent his mistake from costing his team as they fell behind in the first-half
The home side were unable to break Brentford’s deadlock for much of the match, but came out stronger in the second-half
Even then Casemiro had a second chance to redeem himself but flunked the tackle. Mbeumo moved the ball on to Wissa and though United were in retreat they would have survived had it not been for the uneasiness of Victor Lindelof, looking distinctly round peg in square hole at left back. Wissa’s half strike was cleared by the Swede directly back to the striker and then moved to Mathias Jensen, just inside the box.
Again, his shot was not the strongest but Andre Onana dive to his right seemed to be focussed on palming the ball away rather than on the fundamentals of saving it. As such, his soft hands allowed an eminently saveable shot to bobble over him for 1-0.
The second half was demonstrably better, though largely because Brentford reverted to a non possession containment game and they’re very good at that. United looked more coherent but partly because Brentford allowed them to be.
Once again, the visitors packed the central areas, effectively played a back five. And United’s best chances came from long-range strikes, So there was sub Christian Eriksen’s thunderous shot on 53 minutes, parried by Thomas Strakosha. Then Rasmus Hojlund, closer in on a goal but wider, and smashing his shot into the side netting 64 minutes.
The best move of unpicking the defence came on 76 minutes, Dalot and Amrabat working the ball to Alejandro Garnacho and his shot just over fell firmly into the ‘have to hit the target’ category. And even so, perhaps the best save of the second half came from Onana, diving athletically to tip away Neal Maupay’s drive.
Harry Maguire back in the starting line had a difficult afternoon but redeemed himself with a role in McTominay’s effort
After a bright two weeks for Man United, Rasmus Hojlund was unable to be the difference-maker up front for United
With three points clinched, it feels like things could be on the turn for Ten Hag’s side – but feelings can fade
Brentford fought hardily but were unable to preserve their slender lead in the face of the hosts’ super substitute
It doesn’t seem to matter which players you accumulate at United, who the manager is or what tactics they employ. Like Odysseus they seemed destined to be forever travelling and never arriving.
There is a clear institutional failure and yet it is not that they haven’t spent nor that they recruited manager that seem ill suited to the task. It’s just that, as Gary Neville once said of Manchester City, they have the opposite of the Midas Touch: everything they touch turns bad.
Hojlund isn’t a bad player but his burgeoning career could be dragged down with United. Casemiro has won five Champions League trophies; here he had to be substituted at half time so lax was his grip of midfield. Onana was man of te match in the Champions League final last season; at United he is already a liability.
Memo to Ten Hag: David de Gea is still available and without a club. It really seemed that desperate. By the end though Onana was smiling broadly on top of the pile of bodies clambering on McTominay to celebrate a famous win. Perhaps all will be well. It felt like it. But feelings quickly fade.
MAN UNITED 2-1 BRENTFORD: MATCH FACTS
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): Onana, Dalot, Maguire, Evans, Lindelof (Martial 71′), Casemiro (Eriksen 46′), Amrabat (McTominay 87′), Fernandes, Mount (Antony 63′), Rashford (Garnacho 63′), Hojlund
Subs not used: Bayindir, Martial, Pellistri, van de Beek, Mejbri
Goals: McTominay (90+3′), (90+7′)
Manager: Erik ten Hag
Brentford (3-5-2): Strakosha, Ajer, Pinnock, Collins, Roerslev, Jensen (Ghoddos 83′), Norgaard, Janelt (Onyeka 70′), Hickey, Mbuemo, Wissa (Maupay 70′)
Subs not used: Jorgensen, Yarmolyuk, Kim, Olakigbe, Brierley, Balcombe
Goal: Jensen (26)
Booked: Hickey, Norgaard, Collins, Janelt, Maupay
Manager: Thomas Frank
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