Brentford’s four-game unbeaten run came to end as they were beaten by Manchester United at Old Trafford. The Bees started very brightly but conceded the first goal and were never able to work their way back in to the game. The home side scored two more in the second half to secure a 3-0 win that was probably a fraction harsh on The Bees.
There was little doubt Manchester United deserved their victory, clinically taking advantage of any Brentford defensive lapse. Their first came when they broke the offside trap and the second was from the penalty spot. The third came from a corner soon after the second and the game was well up at that point.
Brentford went on the attack straight from kick-off. A pass from Christian Eriksen looked like it had released Bryan Mbeumo in behind the home defence, but Alex Telles got back to make a tackle before the Brentford man could get a shot away. A long throw was cleared for a corner and Brentford pushed Manchester United back. Respite for the hosts came when Rico Henry smashed a shot well over the bar.
It was an end-to-end first 15 minutes with a goal for the home side and a series of openings. A Kristoffer Ajer cross from the right was tipped over the crossbar by David De Gea. It dipped late and may have fallen in to the net or at the feet of Mbeumo but for the intervention of De Gea.
Brentford started brightly and had a lot of the ball, much of it in Manchester United territory. Eriksen found pockets of space and was able to pick out Henry and Mads Roerslev pushing forward from wing back. But the home side had the best two chances and got the opening goal.
They could have scored inside the first three minutes, albeit after Brentford’s bright start, when a pass from Anthony Elanga released Cristiano Ronaldo in behind the Brentford defence. Ronaldo was able to control on his chest but slipped as he tried to apply the finish. Ronaldo may have been offside from the original pass but a check by Video Assistant Referee Paul Tierney was not required.
Mr Tierney was, however, in the action when the home side went ahead. The ball was played down the right for Elanga to dash on to and he managed to get to it just before it ran out of play, digging out a cross. Bruno Fernandes arrived to steer the ball past David Raya and in to the net. Mr Tierney had to check Elanga was not offside, noting he had managed to stay the right side of the line by millimetres, and that he had kept the ball in. With both checks going the way of the hosts, they had the lead.
Brentford tried to respond and a shot from Eriksen, set up by Mbeumo, was saved by De Gea, albeit a little unconvincingly. Mbeumo then headed a cross wide before Ivan Toney met another, this time from Eriksen from the left. Toney was ten yards out and nodded just over the crossbar. Raya saved a long range free kick from Ronaldo, who threw himself down as he ran across Roerslev a few moments later. Referee Christopher Kavanagh waved away appeals and Mr Tierney did not intervene.
The pace of the game fluctuated throughout the first half with spells of end-to-end play interspersed with some deliberate possession, particularly from the hosts. Manchester United took chances in possession as they tried to move the ball up the pitch, but Brentford were unable to make a vital interception and create a chance. When The Bees tried to build, the home side pushed high up the pitch. It made it difficult for Brentford to play through but as the half wore on, The Bees were having slightly the better of an open contest.
Juan Mata fired in to the side netting for the hosts after an exchange with Ronaldo and Mbeumo did likewise at the other end as Brentford broke quickly. Ajer started the charge and Vitaly Janelt found Mbeumo, his low shot whistled past De Gea, but in to the side netting. Eriksen then got free from a short corner but drilled a shot high over the crossbar from a tight angle.
Despite Brentford’s positive position in the game, it looked like they would be two down at the break. Mata managed to stay onside and get on to a ball on the left, being just inside his own half when the pass was played. He broke in to space and crossed for Ronaldo, who fired low first-time past Raya, who got a hand to it but could not keep it out. This time Mr Tierney did come to Brentford’s aid. He saw that Ronaldo was just in front of Henry when the cross came in, so was therefore offside. The goal was ruled out and the home side only had a one-goal lead at the interval.
There had been chances at both ends in the first half and Brentford were happy for the game to be even more open after the break. The Bees continued to attack, getting as many bodies forward as they could and in to Manchester United territory. The home side were able to counter-attack at pace at times and they got their second goal from such a break.
The ball was played in to space on the right and Ronaldo was able to ease Henry out of way to get on to it. Henry chased back and ran in to the back of Ronaldo. Mr Kavanagh pointed to the penalty spot and Ronaldo stepped up to smash it to Raya’s right as the Brentford goalkeeper dived in the opposite direction.
That goal came on the hour mark and the first 15 minutes of the second period had seen both sides go close. Toney lashed a volley wide when he met a deep free kick, and he had a better chance just before Ronaldo’s penalty. The home side failed to clear a corner and the ball dropped to Christian Nørgaard on the edge of the penalty area. He found Toney to his right and a low shot was saved by De Gea with his feet.
Diogo Dalot went close for the hosts after exchanging passes with Ronaldo, his low shot was pushed on to the crossbar by Raya, albeit the offside flag may have ruled the goal out. Fernandes shot narrowly wide for the home side before an Eriksen free kick was pushed out by De Gea. Ronaldo scored his penalty soon after and Manchester United had breathing space.
A header from Mbeumo was blocked, and gathered by De Gea, before The Bees had penalty appeals waved away by Mr Kavanagh. Roerslev tried to head a cross back in to the danger zone and it hit the arm of Telles, but no penalty was awarded. There was almost another at the other end as Ronaldo raced in to the penalty area, but Ajer nipped the ball away.
Ronaldo almost created a third for Manchester United with a delicate cross that hit Pontus Jansson and was bouncing in to the net before Raya pushed it for a corner. But that just delayed the matter. Mata took the corner, Raphaël Varane held off the Brentford defenders to meet it on the volley and the ball, via a deflection, whistled past Raya and in to the net.
Raya saved from Scott McTominay as Manchester United tried to add a fourth. Fernandes had an effort deflect wide and then smashed over from distance while Brentford continued to attack, looking for a goal, at least, for their efforts. They introduced Josh Dasilva, Mathias Jensen and Yoane Wissa as they looked for that goal.
Dasilva almost created one with a run down the right. His pass did not fall for Wissa and Varane made a superb tackle to prevent Dasilva finishing it off. Jensen had another go, but his shot was blocked by Phil Jones. Jensen got back in to ball, and his pass set Toney in behind. But Toney slipped as he prepared to shoot, and Brentford’s last chance had gone.
Manchester United: De Gea; Dalot, Lindelöf, Varane, Telles; MatiÄ‡ (sub Fred 71 mins), McTominay; Elanga (sub Cavani 75 mins), Mata (sub Jones 75 mins), Fernandes; Ronaldo
Subs (not used): Henderson, Bailly, Rashford, Lingard, Fernández, Garnacho
Bookings: MatiÄ‡ (54 mins)
Brentford: Raya; Ajer, Jansson, Bech; Roerslev, Janelt (sub Dasilva 71 mins), Nørgaard (sub Jensen 71 mins), Eriksen, Henry; Toney, Mbeumo (sub Wissa 76 mins)
Subs (not used): Fernández, Stevens, Jeanvier, Young-Coombes, Baptiste, Fosu