Marcus Rashford’s first half strike was enough to see Manchester United over the line by a 1-0 score line against Brentford at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.
Erik ten Hag had opted to slightly alter his starting eleven following two defeats and a draw in United’s last three Premier League fixtures, with Jadon Sancho coming in to bench Wout Weghorst and Scott McTominay controversially retaining his place after what fans saw as a poor showing at the weekend in the 2-0 defeat to Newcastle United.
The Reds had a good control of the match throughout the first forty-five, but the question was whether or not the home side could put the ball in the back of the net after failing to score in the Premier League since the Carabao Cup Final on 26th February.Embed from Getty Images
That question was answered by Rashford. The Englishman bagged his 28th goal of the season in the 27th minute when Marcel Sabitzer cushioned down Antony’s dipping pass with his head before Rashford lashed the ball into the roof of the net from close range.
Some of the optimism depleted ten minutes after when Luke Shaw was forced to be replaced by Tyrell Malacia after the former was seen to be holding his hamstring. Given the left-back’s importance to the side, the manager took no chances.
Brentford, after merely threatening with just one shot in the first period, looked better after half-time, but it was Ten Hag’s men who had the greater control of possession.
The away side had a golden opportunity to equalise in the 67th minute when Kevin Schade got there first ahead of Raphael Varane to Ivan Toney’s flick. The forward closed in on goal, yet he was denied by David De Gea who stood his ground when faced with an attempted chip. The Spanish stopper had not had much to do all night until then.Embed from Getty Images
Thomas Frank made all five substitutions as his men looked to snatch a point on the road, but United never looked too threatened as the game drew to a close, with Fred, Anthony Martial and Victor Lindelof all on to freshen things up.
The game opened up as The Bees chased the game, but United were not decisive in the final moments when faced with good counter-attacking opportunities. Nonetheless, it ended 1-0 and Ten Hag’s team moved back into the top four after a recent blip.
Final Score: Manchester United 1-0 Brentford (Rashford 27’)
Man of the matchEmbed from Getty Images
For the first time in a red shirt, Sabitzer really showed fans what he was all about under the lights in midweek.
Even the Austrian midfielder’s biggest fan would say that his performances have been just above average at best thus far into his loan move from Bayern Munich, so it was good to see him perform so well in the absence of Casemiro. He has clearly built off that FA Cup quarter-final goal against Fulham just before the international break.
The 29-year-old got forward well and notably assisted what proved to be the match winner when he showed great intelligence to lay it off for Rashford with a header inside the box. United’s no.15 showed some great link-up play throughout the time he was on the field, too.
It was hardly sparkling from Sabitzer but he definitely helped run the midfield. He got forward well as was mentioned, and Brentford struggled to do anything of worth regarding their own chance creation, so his performance will go down in the good books of the manager and many fans for sure.
Hopefully there is more to come from the loanee as the business end of the season dawns.
The bigger pictureEmbed from Getty Images
A 1-0 result is not pretty on the face of it, but given the recent run of form in the Premier League, supporters will not be turning their noses up at that one.
Brentford are in for a shout for European football this season, with some even considering them to be outside candidates for top four. The Bees are a well-oiled machine and United did what they had to do today. It was a bit disjointed throughout the second half but after two defeats, a draw and no goals scored in the last three league games, it is hardly all bad.
Fans will hope that the clean sheet and the victory lifts the team out of its rough patch. Having won the Carabao Cup, still being in the Europa League and FA Cup and being favourites for the top four, there is lots to be positive about. Casemiro will be back after the Everton clash at the weekend and Christian Eriksen’s return is close, with the Dane back on the grass with the first team. Things are looking up.
You would have to say that Ten Hag got it right in the end, or at least right enough to win the match. Sancho was quiet all things considered, but Rashford scored another goal in his best scoring season. Sabitzer was tidy, as was the whole back four.
It has to be said that, when Martial came on, it showed the benefit of having a silky forward who can interchange, hold the ball up and play give-and-go passes. Everybody likes Weghorst but as long as Martial is fit, he has to be in that team you would think.
What is next?
Next up for Ten Hag and United is Everton at home in the Premier League this coming Saturday 8th April at 12:30 (BST).
After that, United host Sevilla at Old Trafford in the Europa League quarter-final first leg on Thursday 13th April at 20:00 (BST).