Brentford up the pressure on dismal Manchester United in 4-0 humiliation | premier league

Manchester United is in crisis. There is little doubt about it. Beyond the simple stats of United’s worst start as United manager in a century and the worst Premier League start to a season in 30 years, Erik ten Hag’s reputation is already in tatters. He will need to be an exceptional manager, a man of considerable moral courage, to recover.

Beads of sweat on his bare head, the London sun beat down on the Dutchman as Brentford tore United apart, happily tearing them apart in the first half. It was as bad as anything in the dog days of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, José Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjær, and far worse than any performance under Ralf Rangnick, the much-derided immediate predecessor. The wrongs of last season are miles away from being righted. Too many transfer mismatches and failures, and while fans can expect clearances and fresh blood, two of Ten Hag’s additions in Lisandro Martínez and Christian Eriksen played full roles in the disaster.

The fact that United’s problems run even deeper has resulted in continued protests over Glazer’s away ownership, despite the absent Florida billionaires not being on the pitch in the opening two matches of the league. season. Nor did they pick a team that functioned as indifferent satellites to each other. At Brentford there was plenty of blame to be had, and a surly Cristiano Ronaldo was only too happy to level it.

Ronaldo’s selection made sense in the sense that United didn’t have anyone else fit and able to play as a striker. Choosing someone who wants to leave the club seemed a little less logical. At least there would be no repeat of his pout on the bench, as we saw last week against Brighton. Instead, Scott McTominay was the only player to be ruled out of a opening weekend disappointment which now feels like a happy memory.

Alongside McTominay’s former partner in crime Fred, Eriksen has embraced the deep central midfield role from which he helped bring Brentford to safety last season, with notably less success. A vocal minority of home fans were in ruthless mood for their choice of Manchester over west London: their first touches were booed and there were hearty reminders of the scoreline as Brentford netted their first half goals -time.

Eriksen’s heir apparent for club and country, Mikkel Damsgaard, a Euro 2020 star, was on the bench, not yet fit enough to start following his departure from Sampdoria. Josh Dasilva was given the nod after his goal saved a point at Leicester last Sunday. Despite the scorching heat, Brentford played their usual athletic game, pressing hard and taking full advantage of set pieces. They were offered plenty of the latter thanks to United’s persistent fouling and utter desperation as their frailties were brutally exposed.

Dasilva’s opener came courtesy of aggression from Brentford and submission from United. Mathias Jensen easily robbed Ronaldo and the ball spilled into space from which a speculative shot could be attempted. De Gea might well be trying to blame the high early evening sun for his mistake, but it was not an unusual mistake. For all his brilliance on many other occasions, the Spaniard is prone to dropping clangers. The ball flew over the line and the goalkeeper buried his head in the turf in a familiar fashion.

De Gea was not alone in his incompetence. Far from there. Harry Maguire was only saved from a red card by bringing down Ivan Toney because Martínez was pretty much at the scene of the crime. Maguire bailed out a possession error from Eriksen. The midfielder’s next mistake would be more costly. As United tried uncomfortably to play from a goal kick, Eriksen was brought into trouble by Martínez. Jensen snuck up, straightened up, and calmly patted the house.

David de Gea after conceding the first goal.
David de Gea after conceding the first goal. Photo: Mark Leech/Offside/Getty Images

Only 18 minutes had been played and Ronaldo was raging, barking at his team-mates, and Brentford fans happily predicted Ten Hag would be ‘sacked in the morning’. Thirteen minutes after United pulled back again, Ben Mee leaned over to head for the back post after Toney had time and space to nod from a corner.

If that sounded easy, the next one was even simpler. Jensen robbed Jadon Sancho in the box and released Toney, who then played into Bryan Mbeumo to head home. United’s defense was completely absent as Brentford sailed unchecked.

Ten Hag’s reaction at half-time was to eliminate the ill-fated Martínez and Luke Shaw, as well as replacing McTominay with Fred.

Bryan Mbeumo and Brentford celebrate their win.
Bryan Mbeumo and Brentford celebrate their win. Photo: Mark Leech/Offside/Getty Images

Tyrell Malacia and Raphaël Varane also arrived, and United finally enjoyed some ground. Ronaldo’s first chance of the game didn’t come later, as did his second, both from crosses from Diogo Dalot. The striker’s mood didn’t improve though, as he pounded the turf in anger after going over two goals. To his credit, Ronaldo was often found crumbling as he tried to do something – anything – perhaps hoping to save his own night with a goal. Anthony Elanga was introduced for Sancho, who was almost anonymous.

Eriksen forced Brentford goalkeeper David Raya’s first save of the game with a weak header as Brentford sat on their gaping advantage. Jensen, Mbeumo and Dasilva walked off the pitch to deserved standing ovations on a famous day, having orchestrated a first United defeat since 1938 that will long be remembered. For Ten Hag, and all who hope Manchester United can ever live again, it will no doubt linger as a feverish nightmare and a shattering new low.

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