Three Talking Points: Brentford 1-3 Manchester United

It was an important win away in London for Manchester United on Wednesday evening. Goals from Anthony Elanga, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford secured a solid lead going into the late stages of the second half and while Ivan Toney’s finish stopped United from leaving Brentford with a clean sheet, it was still an impressive win for The Reds.

A tale of two halves

Despite a strong second-half performance from Ralf Rangnick’s men, the home side were dominant throughout the first 45-minutes. United were second-best during the period, and extremely lucky to be going into the break at level peggings.

“We had to change a few things,” Rangnick explained. “The first half we were not good in almost all aspects of the game. In the second half we were more urgent, attacking them higher up the pitch, we scored and that made the difference.”

It’s been a long-standing trend with United over the last few years. We saw a brilliant performance in the first half against Aston Villa on Saturday, but a lethargic second half.

This time around, United’s good period was more than enough to pull them over the line and get the three points. The potent attacking in the second half is what the side need to bring into the coming fixtures.

It’s still an area where United need to improve. Brentford could’ve had a healthy lead going into the break had it not been for David de Gea.

However, perfect performances are not going to suddenly happen for this side, and the boost that this win will give should hopefully give the squad confidence going into the next fixtures.

Bruno back on form

After a frustrating period of form, Bruno Fernandes is back making the difference in the final third, with two assists in the 3-1 victory.

It comes after he scored a brace against Steven Gerrard’s Villa, but it is not just the goal contributions that show his improved form.

The Portuguese midfielder has been making more sensible decisions in possession. It’s often felt like there’s been a time bomb attached to the ball when Bruno has played, but he’s had a better approach in the last two games.

It then gives him the platform to do what he does best in the final third. A great off-ball run — complemented by Cristiano Ronaldo’s audacious chest-pass — was then followed up with a selfless pass across to Greenwood to double United’s lead.

That, and his pass to Rashford for the third of the game, is what United have been missing in recent games. Not shooting from thirty yards, but looking to maximise the chances of scoring a goal.

There still needs to be an improvement in his erratic style on and off the ball, especially if he’s to play as a number eight in a 4-3-3. His rapid pressing often causes trouble for his own team rather than the opposition.

However, Rangnick feels that this position brings the best out of the 27-year-old.

“I think most of the top teams in Europe and England play in a 4-3-3.” He stated. “I think for him it’s better than being pinned to a number ten position because he can then make himself available in different areas of the pitch.

“I think in this position as an eight he can find the spaces himself, I think he can sniff the moments in which areas we need to play the ball to him and he can make himself available and therefore I think this position as an eight is almost perfect for him.”

Elanga stamping his name on the team sheet

Last game, Elanga was the bright spark. This time he was the light show. The 19-year-old built on his performance at Villa Park and when United were stuck, he provided the expert touch to give them a vital lead.

It wasn’t luck that he managed to find himself in a dangerous area inside the box. The Swedish winger was constantly on the move throughout the match and wasn’t pessimistic when the ball wasn’t coming.

He kept going and was rewarded when Fred’s excellent cross found his run. The touch and finish were made to look a lot easier than they actually were by the young talent who is bursting with confidence at the moment.

He constantly asks his opposite number of questions, whether it be a run in-behind, an attempted take-on or a quick one-two. His skills might not yet be as polished as he’d like, but he’s still ensuring that he makes life difficult for the full-back.

Rio Ferdinand was impressed yet again by the United academy graduate and complimented his attacked threat on the wing.

“It’s nice to see someone like Elanga come in and do well,” said Ferdinand on BT Sport. “Superstars all around him. He had loads and loads of clubs try to loan him because they’ve seen what he’s done in the teams, under-23s etc. The run there was phenomenal.

“He makes the full-back have to be honest in the game because he’ll test you. He’ll run in behind — that goal epitomised how he wants to play, running behind the full-backs, test him, make him have to defend and he asks questions of defenders and that’s what you want him to do.”

It was a strong decision by Rangnick to continue with the 19-year-old, despite Marcus Rashford’s return to the matchday squad. He was delighted with Elanga’s performance and even squashed any rumours of there being a chance that the young winger is loaned out this month.

“I’d say he was almost outstanding in that second half.” Rangnick told BT Sport.

After revealing Elanga was close to going on loan, Rangnick told the media: “I told him you will not go out on loan, you will say here.”

It instead looks like the wide-man will keep his place in the starting line-up for United’s match against West Ham on Saturday.

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