Match Report: Brentford 1-3 Manchester United

It was the first time in the storied history of this football club that Manchester United had two players born after 2000 on the scoresheet in the same Premier League game. And that youthfulness was ultimately the difference as United came away from the home of the ever so fearless Brentford as 3-1 victors.

Anthony Elanga and Mason Greenwood both scored to put United into cruise control after the break following a nerve-packed first half. Bruno Fernandes backed up his brace from Villa Park with a pair of assists in another vintage performance and all of a sudden, things maybe are not as bleak as they sometimes seem.

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Since the departure of Ole Gunnar Solskjær, United have only lost once. But it just feels miserable around the club with no real momentum being built. But after that calamitous ending at Villa Park and the poor opening tonight, United players seemed to finally roll their sleeves up.

In life and football, it is the hope that kills you. But maybe, just maybe, a corner has finally been turned?

Story of the game

The first half was far from the response that most were probably expecting after Ralf Rangnick‘s side threw away the three points at Villa on Sunday. Despite dominating possession, United lacked any conviction in the final third and were very much on the backfoot.

Pushed by the raucous atmosphere, the hosts created virtually all of the dangerous chances with David de Gea having to stand on his head to keep the Reds level. It’s scary to think just how low the pendulum would have dropped for United without the Spaniard’s escapades in between the sticks. But the Bees will also be fuming not to have put anything away.

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United were caught out on the ball in their own half on numerous occasions, giving the hosts opportunity after opportunity to go eye to eye with de Gea. Fortunately for Rangnick, Brentford did not bring their shooting boots in the first 45.

From United’s perspective, it couldn’t really get much worse. Giving away chances left and right, and even from their own attacking set-pieces, any improvement after the interval could produce a smash and grab at the Brentford Community Stadium. And that it did.

Thomas Frank‘s side will rue the chances missed in the opening frame as a different kind of Manchester United showed up to play after the 15-minute breather. Rangnick’s side didn’t really do much different. There was just a bit more intent visible. A realization of the badge on their chest. They just needed to want it more.

What ended up winning it for United was trusting the youth. Allowing Anthony Elanga to win consecutive league starts opened the scoring. And that’s what it’s all about. Giving players a chance and playing on merit, not reputation.

The young Swede opened the scoring for United ten minutes after the break after latching onto a glorious pass from Fred in behind. His first touch, a little high and heavy, left the goalkeeper in no man’s land before the forward headed home his first of the season.

Similar story to Villa Park a few days ago, slightly against the run of play but United were ahead. And they needed to build on that, not rest on their laurels.

Seven minutes later, it was a whole Villa Park deja-vu. United were up two, again. This time, a neat move on the halfway line saw Cristiano Ronaldo chest the ball into the path of the onrushing Bruno Fernandes. United’s skipper on the night was in behind and going two on one with the host’s keeper, as Mason Greenwood was catching up along. After deliberating, the Portuguese did square it for United’s No. 11 to tap into the empty net.

After Sunday, was it job done or nervy times ahead?

It was a job well done. Moments after, Marcus Rashford replaced Ronaldo and got himself on the scoresheet, converting another Bruno pass, getting a much-needed goal, and putting the final nail in the coffin of the Premier League newcomers.

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As per tradition, United did go on to lose their clean sheet via an opposition set-piece. That did dampen the mood a little, particularly the back lines, but the three points did get secured. A massive win in the hunt for Top Four and with the games coming thick and fast.

All about consistency

The win aside, United were simply not better at the Brentford Community Stadium tonight in comparison to the performance at Villa Park a few days ago. And yet, this performance produced three points. So what does it all come down to?

Tonight, there was some luck and De Gea heroics. But most of all, it was the commitment to the cause. After halftime, United really pushed forward and showed intent and determination in the final third. Winning those small duels and battles for positions goes a long way to creating chances and this meant the second-half performance was night and day compared to the first.

With West Ham coming up next, not all hope is yet lost in achieving a good league finish this season. But Rangnick’s side needs to pounce and build some momentum. Dropping silly points must stop now. Whatever Rangnick said to his side at halftime tonight worked and this team needs to realize that they are capable of playing like this every game.

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