Manchester United put the disappointment of three Premier League games without a win behind them by beating Brentford at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.
An on-fire Marcus Rashford scored the only goal of the game in the first half, which also helped Erik ten Hag’s enact revenge for a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Bees in August.
It was a bright and high-tempo start from the home side, looking to bounce back from defeat to Newcastle at the weekend, with a flurry of early corners.
With Brentford determined to stay compact and a little reluctant to press to avoid coming out of that shape, it was down to the hosts to be inventive. That started to happen out wide midway through the first half, with good work from Diogo Dalot and Antony on the right eventually presenting the ball to Scott McTominay, whose drive from 20 yards narrowly flew over.
Antony seemed up for the challenge and a cut inside and curling shot just miss the far post. But the breakthrough came in the aftermath from another of those first half corners. Brentford only partially cleared and, as the ball was floated back into the box, Marcel Sabitzer had the presence of mind to nod it square into the path of Rashford – he made not mistake from close-range with his subsequent finish.
United pressure continued as the first half progressed, with Antony not far missing with a measured volley after a wonderful lofted Rashford pass. Rashford himself also brought a smart near post save out of David Raya after shooting from a tight angle on the left.
Brentford’s only half chance of the opening 45 minutes was a reminder for United to stay focused, with David de Gea giving the ball away and an eventual Ivan Toney header missing the target.
The second half was heading the same way as the first, with United on top and probing, albeit unable to add to their lead. Despite the one-sided nature of the game, the slenderness of lead was threatened when Bees sub Kevin Schade ended up going through on goal. Thankfully from a United perspective, it was a poor finish straight at De Gea, who stood his ground.
With a teak to the system, Brentford were more expansive in the final stages than they had been all game, which also posed a risk to being caught on the counter. But Erik ten Hag even replaced Antony with Victor Lindelof in the closing stages because of how much of the ball Brentford were having.
Despite an audacious Toney lob in stoppage time, Brentford ultimately didn’t have enough quality to make their late ascendancy count for anything.
GK: David de Gea – 7/10 – Nearly got caught out with poor kicking but made a vital one-v-one save to stop Schade equalising for Brentford.
RB: Diogo Dalot – 7/10 – Showed a willingness to make surging runs to stretch Brentford.
CB: Raphael Varane – 6/10 – Solid without ever truly being tested.
CB: Lisandro Martinez – 7/10 – Made his presence known with a crunching challenge on Toney.
LB: Luke Shaw – 6/10 – Celebrating a new long-term contract on his 250th appearance for the club, but his night ended in 36 minutes due to injury.
CM: Scott McTominay – 8/10 – Tasked with the Casemiro role. Had an early chance to score and also defended well. Can be pleased with his performance.
CM: Marcel Sabitzer – 7/10 – Contributed to attacks and it was a really smart header to set up Rashford’s first half goal.
RM: Antony – 7/10 – Looked up for the challenge and was a major source of danger, although his shooting radar was slightly askew.
AM: Bruno Fernandes (c) – 8/10 – Displayed an outstanding range of passing.
LM: Jadon Sancho – 6/10 – Worked hard and the more minutes he gets in his legs the better.
ST: Marcus Rashford – 9/10 – Scored a clinical goal to break the deadlock and was at the heart of everything. Even tracked back to help defend too.
SUB: Tyrell Malacia (37′ for Shaw) – 7/10
SUB: Fred (71′ for Sabitzer) – 6/10
SUB: Anthony Martial (71′ for Sancho) – 4/10
SUB: Victor Lindelof (86′ for Antony) – N/A
Erik ten Hag – 7/10 – Will have been pleased with the tempo and intensity of the performance. Made intelligent changes and wasn’t scared to try and protect the lead when Lindelof went on.
GK: David Raya – 7/10 – Not massively tested given that most United efforts were off target, but saved well from Rashford in the first half to keep Brentford in with a chance.
RB: Mads Roerslev – 6/10 – Getting forward was tough but he kept Sancho largely under wraps.
CB: Pontus Jansson (c) – 6/10 – Cleared the danger numerous times.
CB: Ethan Pinnock – 7/10 – Helped Brentford try and build from the back and a big source of frustration for the hosts.
CB: Ben Mee – 7/10 – Always careful in possession and won his duels.
LB: Rico Henry – 7/10 – Put in a huge shift down the left side.
CM: Mikkel Damsgaard – 4/10 – Struggled to make anything happen.
CM: Christian Norgaard – 5/10 – No real foothold in the game.
CM: Mathias Jensen – 5/10 – Another who couldn’t really get into it.
ST: Bryan Mbeumo – 4/10 – Tried to press in the first half but minimal impact overall.
ST: Ivan Toney – 4/10 – Missed the target with a difficult header near the end of the first half but was otherwise way too isolated and lacking service.
SUB: Shandon Baptiste (62′ for Jensen) – 6/10
SUB: Josh Dasilva (62′ for Mbeumo) – 6/10
SUB: Kevin Schade (62′ for Damsgaard) – 7/10
SUB: Yoane Wissa (75′ for Norgaard) – 6/10
SUB: Aaron Hickey (75′ for Roerslev) – 6/10
Thomas Frank – 7/10 – Set up his team to be compact and had to come up with new ideas in the second half with so few opportunities created. Changed the system in the final stages and it did work to make his side more competitive in the final quarter.