Anthony Elanga Turns The Tide After United's Shaky Start At Brentford

United rode their luck, and De Gea's gloves, on the way to victory at Brentford
21:54, 19 Jan 2022

In the first half, you would have struggled to identify the team managed by the ‘Godfather of Gegenpressing’, as Brentford attacked the ball brilliantly. Thomas Frank’s Bees pressured Ralf Rangnick’s Reds throughout, with the excellent Bryan Mbeumo frequently launching counter-attacks. 

This method saw the home side enjoy the signature chances of a frantic first half. United had their pocket picked in midfield by Mbeumo, who launched an attack that ended with Mathias Jensen drawing a superb save from David De Gea. Piling on the pressure, Mads Bech Sorensen then forced a last ditch block from Alex Telles before Christian Norgaard looped one over from distance. United were in all kinds of trouble, desperately trying to stem the Brentford tide.

The Red Devils enjoyed their sole shot of note when a smart Scott McTominay pass was bent wide by Diogo Dalot. Brentford were soon back in the driver’s seat, when a Bruno Fernandes corner was headed away. Mbeumo launched into action again, with Jensen ending the move by forcing another superb De Gea stop. The Spain international was the only thing keeping Ralf Rangnick’s side in the game at this stage.

The second half brought an upturn in fortunes, though the home side still posed danger. Mbeumo unlocked Jensen yet again, and yet again De Gea stood between the Dane and the United net. Mbeumo’s dynamism was a night-long feature, and the 22-year-old Frenchman will certainly have attracted plenty of admirers for his display.

The tide turned when Fred looped a ball over the top towards Anthony Elanga. The youngster took a first touch that belied his, flicking the ball up and heading it past Jonas Lossl to open the scoring. After making his first Premier League start of the season against Aston Villa, hopes are high that the 19-year-old can ignite United’s season.

He certainly succeeded in igniting his team in this game, as the away side began playing with increased confidence. Scott McTominay looked to add to his two goals in three games from distance, drawing a good save from Lossl. Then United doubled their lead. Cristiano Ronaldo’s elegant chested pass set Fernandes off on a run. The Portugal midfielder burst into the box and squared for Mason Greenwood, who made no mistake with the goal at his mercy. Brentford were now up against it, their encouraging start thoroughly erased.

Ronaldo was substituted, much to his consternation, but Rangnick’s decision to put Marcus Rashford on paid dividends. The Wythenshawe-born forward broke his scoring duck with a thumping finish after an impressive interception by McTominay sent United on the attack. The Scottish midfielder had a good second half before being withdrawn late due to injury.

But for De Gea’s heroics, Brentford would have had a number of goals tonight at the Brentford Community Stadium. Ultimately, they had to settle for just once. A long throw from Sorensen triggered a goalmouth scramble that Ivan Toney got the best of, pouncing to score his sixth goal of the season.

The scoreline is appealing on the eye, but United should be under no illusions. They were desperately poor in the first half, and cannot afford to rely on De Gea to clean up their mess every week. Brentford can take immense credit from this performance, especially during a 45 minutes where they played with invention, pace and guile.

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