Brentford fires up bleak Manchester United in 4-0 humiliation | Eredivisie

Manchester United are in crisis. There can be little doubt. Aside from the bare stats of becoming the first United manager to lose his first two games since 1921 and leading the worst start to a Premier League season in 30 years, Erik ten Hag’s reputation is already in tatters. He will have to be an exceptional manager, a man of considerable moral courage, to recover from this.

Drops of sweat glistened on his bare head, the London evening sun fell on the Dutchman as Brentford tore United apart, merrily tearing them apart in the first half. It was as bad as anything produced 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-discussed immediate predecessor.

But it was still a familiar story. The mistakes of previous seasons have not yet been made good and while fans may be looking for cleanups and fresh blood, two of Ten Hag’s signings, Lisandro Martínez and Christian Eriksen, played a full part in the disaster.

That United’s troubles run even deeper was reflected in the ongoing protests against Glazer’s property in the away game, even though the absent Florida billionaires were not on the pitch during the two horrific performances that kicked off this Premier League season. Nor did they choose a team that operated as disinterested satellites of each other.

“I asked them to play with conviction and to take responsibility, they have not done that,” Ten Hag said afterwards. “I have to give them faith, but they have to give it themselves.” There seems to be little unity, even though there was much guilt. A growling Cristiano Ronaldo was only too happy to equalize, and he managed to take out both Ten Hag and the away supporters full-time.

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

At least there wouldn’t be a repeat of the big man pouting on the bench, as seen against Brighton last week. Instead, Scott McTominay was the only player dropped after an opening weekend disappointment that now resembles happy, optimistic times.

Alongside McTominay’s former partner in crime, Fred, Eriksen played the deep, central midfield role from which he helped bring Brentford to safety last season, with markedly lesser success. A vocal minority of home fans were in a ruthless mood over his choice of Manchester over West London, his early touches being booed and heartfelt reminders of the deficit.

Josh Dasilva’s goal had saved a point at Leicester last Sunday and he got the nod, a team selection from Thomas Frank paid off in a way Ten Hag can only dream of. He must also be jealous of their energy and application. Brentford played their usual athletic game, pressed hard and made full use of set pieces, which United’s continued offense offered them in utter despair.

“We knew the high press would hit them,” said the excellent Ivan Toney. “It was clear to see that if you work hard, you get the result.” Mathias Jensen, dominant in midfield, said: “It felt like we were on top of everything.”

“We looked at what Brighton did well against them,” said Frank. “We knew we had that weapon.”

Dasilva’s long-range opener came through a combination of aggression, submission and incompetence. Jensen easily robbed Ronaldo and De Gea made a not uncommon mistake. For all his regular genius, the Spaniard is prone to clatter. After the ball dropped over the line, he buried his head in the turf.

“I just take my responsibility today,” said De Gea, who took the responsibility. “I think I cost three points for my team. It was a bad performance on my part.”

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

De Gea was not alone in incompetence. Far from. Harry Maguire was only saved from a red card when he knocked down Ivan Toney because Martínez was at the crime scene. And while United tried uncomfortably to clear the ball from a goal kick, Eriksen ran into trouble because of Martínez. Jensen stole for second.

Just 18 minutes played and Ronaldo barked at his teammates as Brentford fans predicted Ten Hag would be fired in the morning’. Thirteen minutes later, Ben Mee bent over the back post to score after Toney nodded a corner. The next was even easier, Jensen robbed Jadon Sancho in the penalty area and released Toney, who played in Bryan Mbeumo as Brentford sailed on unchecked.

Ten Hag’s response, his attempt to end the shell shock, was to remove the hapless Martínez and Luke Shaw and trade McTominay back for Fred. United looked a little firmer, though still vulnerable, and their attacks were still unlucky.

United enjoyed at least some ground. Ronaldo’s first chances both came from Diogo Dalot’s crosses and he beat the grass in fury after heading both over. He soon found himself sinking as he tried to make anything, anything, maybe save his own night with a purpose.

Eriksen forced the Brentford goalkeeper, David Raya, into the first save of the game with a weak header as the home side leaned back on their gaping advantage, able to enjoy the opportunity. Jensen, Mbeumo and Dasilva left the field to earn a standing ovation on a famous Brentford day, United’s first defeat since 1938 that will be long remembered. The celebrations after that were riotous and lengthy.

For Ten Hag and anyone hoping Manchester United can one day revive, this will linger as a feverish nightmare, a new but familiar low.

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