Manchester United added another chaotic chapter to the tale that is their roller-coaster 2023-24 season on Saturday, as they scored twice in stoppage time to beat Brentford 2-1 at Old Trafford.
For 90-plus minutes, it was another lifeless, uninspired performance from Erik ten Hag’s side, as they stared a third successive home defeat in the face, and the worst start to a league season in nearly 40 years. Enter: Scott McTominay, fresh off the bench just moments earlier, the hero of the day.
The Red Devils were once again architects of their own demise in the first half, as Casemiro’s needless giveaway put the make-shift defense under unnecessary pressure in the 26th minute, concluding with the opening goal for Brentford. Bryan Mbeumo jumped the Brazilian’s passing lane when he tried to casually play Sofyan Amrabat inside the center circle. Three seconds later, it was a 5v5 flood of bodies heading the other way. Victor Lindelof stepped forward to cut out Yoane Wissa’s initial cross, but Casemiro couldn’t win the second ball against Wissa. It rolled harmlessly to Mathias Jensen, who found a path past two defenders and Andre Onana.
Manchester United briefly thought they had equalized in the 89th minute, when Kristoffer Ajer poked the ball into his own net, but the assistant referee flagged Anthony Martial for touching the ball first after being in an offside position when the cross came in.
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Three minutes later, McTominay did indeed pull the home side level with a clever finish as the ball pinged around Brentford’s penalty area once failed clearance after another. McTominay brough it down from chest-high, swiveled and uncorked a right-footed strike all in one sweeping motion from 12 yards out.
From there, it was nothing but pressure by the men in red, and again it was McTominay in the right place at the right time. Andre Onana took a free kick in the attacking half of the field, headed down at the back post by Harry Maguire, and finally flicked over a flailing Thomas Strakosha in goal. Pandemonium and delirium inside Old Trafford.
Comeback papers over Man United’s cracks, but fixes very little
By the time the full-time whistle had blown, Old Trafford was a joyous cauldron of celebration, but the real feeling evoked by the stoppage-time comeback was more one of relief than it was happiness or hopefulness — or, at least it should have been.
In the 45 second-half minutes preceding stoppage time — during all of which they were a goal down — Manchester United managed all of 0.33 xG on 10 shots. Brentford, by comparison, put up 0.41 on just three attempts while largely battening down the hatches and defending for their lives. Prior to stoppage time, Man United attempted just two shots from inside the penalty area — both very wide on the left side of the box, totaling 0.09 xG — with everything else coming from 20 yards and out.
Their only real scoring chances came from crossing and booting the ball into the box, hoping the Bees would failed to get it clear. A recipe for long-term success, that is not, but it was their get-out-of-jail-free card on Saturday.
Player ratings – Manchester United vs Brentford
Manchester United will head to Bramall Lane to take on bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United following the upcoming international break, while Brentford will host Burnley.
Brentford boss Thomas Frank: “Football is brutal”
“Football is brutal in moments like this. I think we did so many things right, coming here to Old Trafford — almost perfect first half, pressed high, good on the counter and well-deserved lead.
Manchester United vs Brentford, final score: 2-1
Goalscorers: Mathias Jensen (26′), Scott McTominay (90’+2, 90’+6)
26th minute — GOAL — Mathias Jensen fits a finish through traffic to put Brentford ahead
Jensen capitalizes on Man United’s error
Manchester United’s defensive issues continue as Mathias Jensen finds the ball at his feet in the box and slots home Brentford’s opening goal at Old Trafford.
92nd minute — GOAL — Scott McTominay pulls Man United level with a fine finish
McTominay scores late equalizer v. Brentford
Scott McTominay comes off the bench to equalize in stoppage time for Manchester United against Brentford at Old Trafford.
96th minute — GOAL — Scott McTominay completes the comeback at the death
McTominay scores stoppage-time winner for Man Utd
Scott McTominay’s late double saves the day for Manchester United as he secures three points for his side against Brentford at Old Trafford.
How to watch Manchester United vs Brentford live, stream link and start time
Kick off time: 10am ET (Saturday, Oct. 7)
TV: USA Network
Online: Watch online via NBCSports.com
Manchester United starting lineup
Onana — Lindelof, Evans, Maguire, Dalot — Casemiro, Amrabat — Fernandes, Mount, Rashford — Hojlund
Focus on Manchester United
Raphael Varane and Casemiro are both healthy and that sure matters a lot as the pair is as important a duo to any club’s success as there is in the Premier League right now. Antony is back in Manchester United’s side following his suspension, and Sergio Reguilon’s the only question mark for Saturday.
OUT: Lisandro Martinez (foot), Tyrell Malacia (undisclosed), Jadon Sancho (disciplinary), Luke Shaw (undisclosed), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (hamstring) Tom Heaton (calf), Kobbie Mainoo (ankle), Amad Diallo (knee) | QUESTIONABLE: Sergio Reguilon (thigh).
Brentford starting lineup
Strakosha — Collins, Pinnock, Ajer — Roerslev, Jensen, Norgaard, Janelt, Hickey — Mbeumo, Wissa
Focus on Brentford
There are still significant injuries for Brentford, but Bryan Mbeumo and Mathias Jensen are able to carry an attack. Ben Mee’s absence is looming large here, though not as large as Ivan Toney’s suspension. Is Brentford still sure it can handle selling the mega-productive forward in January?
OUT: Ivan Toney (suspension), Ben Mee (calf), Rico Henry (torn ACL – out for season), Kevin Schade (adductor), Mikkel Damsgaard (knee), Josh Dasilva (hamstring), Shandon Baptiste (shoulder)