Manchester United abysmal for one man as cheery Brentford fans revel in historic humiliation

You should have stayed at Brentford,” the home crowd at Gtech Community Stadium had the pleasure of chanting at Christian Eriksen, less than a quarter from the midfielder’s first return to face his former club.

He must surely be thinking the same thing. His Manchester United side were being blown away by a sensational performance at home, full of joy, vertigo and ruthlessness, aided by a weak and weak defense.

Just one game into Erik ten Hag’s reign and already in crisis after last week’s defeat at Brighton, the Dutchman needed his players to rise but, wearing a garish, eye-sore green kit, almost camouflaged against the ground, to a man, they went missing.

Those in red and white were sensational: Josh Dasilva, Mathias Jensen, Ben Mee and Bryan Mbuemo all on the scoresheet before the break in a stunning 4-0 rout.

By then Eriksen had also been serenaded with “You only went for the money” and “You go down with Fulham”.

Currently, it is difficult to choose an alternative factor to challenge the old claim. Bigger club? Sure, but right now Manchester United is an institution on the brink of ruin, rotten to the core, a collage of sheets emblazoned with ‘Glazer Out’ held furiously outside.

And as for the latter? Well, at the moment the prediction looks more likely to fall victim to Fulham’s form than United’s.

Eriksen was, just a few weeks ago, football’s most adored man, whose steps on a football pitch lifted every buttocks from every seat away as well as at home, whose face could transform furious opponents into cuddly teddy bears in an instant. Here he was subjected to something approaching public humiliation – and it didn’t even feel bad. That’s the power of this United.

Brentford’s opener seemed to sum up Old Trafford’s unease. Cristiano Ronaldo, the cause of much of the pre-season disruption that set the tone for the ongoing car crash, appealed for a non-existent foul as Dasilva moved forward and shot through David De Gea, who was probably more scrambled by the low sun than the existential crisis engulfing his club, truth be told. Still, it was top-notch noise, and the kind he lived for.

Dressed in a garish green kit that almost camouflaged against the pitch, for a man, United was gone.

In the end, however, that goal deserved only to characterize an average mess, a level United left the streets behind, and the worst – or the best – was yet to come.

In fact, the second goal came after a moment so hilarious it’s worth reciting in full. Attempting to play against the Brentford press, Eriksen saw a blind pass around the corner deflected towards his own goal. Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbuemo each smelled the blood, Harry Maguire, moving like a man on the wrong path on an airport treadmill, did just enough with his small lead to be able to concede a free kick on the section. Jensen got up and whipped the set piece over the bar. A letting go and, surely, a lesson learned.

Not enough. The glare from the scorching sun made it difficult to see the replays playing on the screens in the press box all afternoon, but in this case they weren’t necessary, as the comedy played out in real time. From the resulting goal kick, De Gea dropped Eriksen again and this time Jensen was even hotter on his heels, stealing the ball and then pulling himself together to guide a clever reverse finish home.

The goalscorers were neat, two players who Thomas Frank has publicly stated must step in in Eriksen’s absence. Jensen, a player of often frustrating promise, had been Denmark’s substitute when Eriksen stretched out in Copenhagen a year ago, and had perhaps his best top-flight performance. Dasilva missed so many injuries last season, his absence being part of why Brentford struggled so much for midfield creativity until Eriksen arrived, but now have two from two at the start.

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De Gea and Eriksen were still debating who was to blame for the debacle when the first coffee break arrived, much needed in the blistering heat, but for Ten Hag it was soon a case of “it never rains, it rains at pours” as his most scrutinized summer. the signing, Lisandro Martinez, was exposed for issues three and four.

Brentford’s first goal from Mee, bundled in from a corner, highlighted Martinez’s obvious lack of size and physicality, but these weaknesses are believed to be compensated for by the Argentine’s mobility and game reading. The former Ajax man couldn’t do anything to get Ivan Toney out on the counter, however, as the striker played a perfect ball early for Mbuemo, who had passed Luke Shaw to finish.

Ten Hag made three changes at the break, seemingly unaware that this season in the Premier League you can make five. There might be few other explanations for keeping eight of that lot on the pitch, but the fact that the substitutions came at left-back, centre-back and holding midfield suggested that the limitation of damage was an important part of the thinking.

After a second half that offered only an ounce of encouragement, all that remains is to assess how much has already been done.


standard Sport

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