Man United humiliated by Brentford in a four-goal thrashing
A thrashing that was one of the most incredible scorelines in the Premier League’s 30-year history, but wasn’t all that surprising. Brentford, for example, seemed to know exactly what Manchester United would do and how they could hurt them. Again and again and again, until it was 4-0 after only 35 minutes.
That is a low in and of itself, but you can’t really say Erik ten Hag’s new era has reached new lows. It was more of a continuation of everything that had gone before, an implosion caused by so many problems that had accumulated over a decade.
The most concerning aspect is that Ten Hag has not been able to stop it, even temporarily. Except for the negative, there has been no jolt, new spark, or impact.
This, of course, should focus even more attention on fan protests against the Glazer ownership, under which Manchester United will never be what they should be.
The fact that a leveraged takeover was allowed to occur in the first place was a modern football tragedy that continues to sum up problems in England’s national game.
Perhaps the country’s greatest club is clearly broken, most notably in the locker room.
Some figures with knowledge of the United squad speak of “football PTSD,” if you’ll excuse the insensitivity of the term. They’ve been subjected to far too much emotional stress, as well as far too much scrutiny.
That is evident in how they now react to adversity. This is the club of Fergie, Roy Keane, and last-minute victories.
As the Premier League celebrates its 30th anniversary, the competition’s most successful club was enduring a second game in just nine months where they were 4-0 down at halftime. This was a 35-minute victory over a club that was in the Championship just over a year ago and still operates largely on a Championship budget.
It demonstrates that there are more pressing issues at United than spending.
Christian Eriksen, who had been chastised by the Brentford fans for leaving in the summer, must have been wondering why he had done so.
What about Ten Hag?
While he has been dealt a terrible hand, as evidenced by the summer’s chaos, this is not the only reason people have warned him off the job.
Some argue that this is why some in the Old Trafford hierarchy advised against appointing him.
Yes, we’re using those words because the outcome was so bad. And it appears that things may worsen.
The harsh reality is that he was far from blameless.
Take, for example, the player who is literally at the center of so much of the action. What does it say about Ten Hag’s tactical approach that he abruptly switched Eriksen from a false nine to a number six, especially against a team like Brentford that presses you?
It was no surprise, given the scoreline, that Thomas Frank’s side repeatedly got at and around him.
Eriksen duly lost the ball to Mathias Jensen for the second goal, the midfielder casually stroking it past De Gea in a manner befitting of Brentford’s ease.
It also demonstrated something fundamentally wrong with United. That was it being passed out from the back.
It felt like a scene from 2011, reminiscent of Andre Villas Boas’ high line with Chelsea, as if this group of players had never seen what is now standard coaching. Maybe they hadn’t. Perhaps this is another issue, and why things can get worse before they get better.
Ten Hag is introducing the team to a previously unknown style of play. You could see the fear in De Gea’s body movements as he hesitated and panicked before playing the ball to Eriksen.
The nature of the opening goal, as he let in Josh Dasilva’s shot in the face of admittedly strong sun, would have already affected the Spanish international, but he is also not a goalkeeper suited to playing it out from the back.
It will be another faultline. Throughout the game, the fallout caused more cracks in United.
Only minutes later, De Gea came out for a corner and came up empty-handed, with the rampaging Toney heading it back across goal for Ben Mee to divert in.
Despite falling over, the former Burnley defender beat Lisandro Martinez to an aerial ball.
Much has been made of the Argentine defender’s height, but the leap may be just as important.
United have placed a high value on signings from a league that is now far below the general standard of the Premier League, let alone the sort of expectations one of its wealthiest clubs should have.
The gap between the Dutch league and England is now so wide that even Ajax players could benefit from a year in the middle of the table. This leads us to the manager.
Ten Hag will have realized that, whatever the gap between leagues, he doesn’t have anything like the structure he had at Ajax.
This meant that United lacked any sort of tactical structure in this game.
Brentford were so comfortable by the fourth goal that they had the confidence and sense of self-expression to simply slice through Ten Hag’s side, Bryan Mbeumo leaving the hapless Luke Shaw for dust as he also rolled the ball beyond De Gea.
The home crowd couldn’t believe it, but they made the most of every moment.
It should not be forgotten that, amid all of the talk about Manchester United, this was Brentford’s day; one of their best.
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