Manchester United abysmal to a man as gleeful Brentford fans revel in historic humiliation

·5-min read
Unhappy homecoming: Christian Eriksen  (Getty Images)
Unhappy homecoming: Christian Eriksen (Getty Images)

“You should have stayed at the Brentford,” the home crowd at the Gtech Community Stadium had the gleeful pleasure of singing at Christian Eriksen, less than a quarter of the way through the midfielder’s first return to face his former club.

Surely, he must’ve been thinking the same thing. His Manchester United side were in the midst of being blown away by a sensational home performance, full of joyful, giddy, ruthlessness, aided by defending that was equal parts feeble and moronic.

Just one game into Erik ten Hag’s reign and already in crisis after last week’s defeat to Brighton, the Dutchman needed his players to stand up but, wearing an eye-soreingly garish green kit made almost camouflage against the pitch, to a man, they went missing.

Those in red and white were sensational: Josh Dasilva, Mathias Jensen, Ben Mee and Bryan Mbuemo all on the scoresheet before the break in a staggering 4-0 rout.

By then Eriksen had also been serenaded by “You only went for the money” and “You’re going down with the Fulham”.

Right now, it is difficult to pick out an alternative factor to dispute the former claim. Bigger club? Sure, but right now Manchester United is an institution on the brink of ruin, rotten to the core, a collage of ‘Glazer Out’-emblazoned bedsheets held furiously aloft in the away end.

And as to the latter? Well, at present, the prediction looks more likely to fall victim to Fulham’s form than United’s.

Eriksen was, only weeks ago the single most adored man in football, whose very steps onto a football pitch lifted every bum off every seat in away ends as well as home, whose face could turn irate opponents into cuddly teddy bears in an instant. Here, he was subjected to something approaching a public humiliation - and it did not even feel wrong. That is the power of this United.

Brentford’s opener appeared to sum up the Old Trafford malaise. Cristiano Ronaldo, the cause of so much of the pre-season disruption that set the tone for the ongoing car crash, rolled around appealing for a non-existent foul as Dasilva strode forward and fired through David De Gea, who was probably more scrambled by the low sun than the existential crisis engulfing his club, if truth be told. Still, it was a clanger of the highest order, and the kind he has previous for.

Wearing a garish green kit made almost camouflage against the pitch, to a man, United went missing.

As it turned out, though, that goal was only worthy of typifying a middling shambles, a tier United have left streets behind, and the worst - or best - was yet to come.

In fact, the second goal came about through a passage of play so hilariously bad it is worth reciting in full. Attempting to play out in the face of the Brentford press, Eriksen saw a blind pass around the corner deflected back towards his own goal. Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbuemo each smelt blood, Harry Maguire, moving like a man going the wrong way down an airport travelator, did just enough with his small head-start to be able to concede a free-kick on the stretch. Jensen stepped up and whipped the set-piece over the bar. A let-off and, surely, lesson learned.

Not quite. The glare from the blazing sun made it hard to see the replays played on screens in the press box all afternoon, but in this instance, they were not required, as the comedy played out again in real-time. From the resulting goal-kick, De Gea dropped Eriksen in it again and this time Jensen was even hotter on his heels, stealing the ball and then composing himself to guide a clever reverse finish home.

There was a neatness to the goalscorers, two players Thomas Frank has said publicly must step up in Eriksen’s absence. Jensen, a player of often frustrating promise, had been the substitute for Denmark when Eriksen was stretchered off in Copenhagen a year ago, and had perhaps his best top-flight display. Dasilva missed so much of last season injured, his absence part of the reason Brentford struggled so badly for midfield creativity until Eriksen’s arrival, but now has two in two at the start of this.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

De Gea and Eriksen were still debating whose fault the debacle had been when the first drinks break arrived, much needed in oppressively hot conditions, but for Ten Hag it was soon a case of ‘it never rains, it pours’ as his most scrutinised summer signing, Lisandro Martinez, was exposed for numbers three and four.

Mee’s first Brentford goal, bundled in from a corner, put Martinez’s obvious lack of height and physicality in the spotlight, but those weaknesses are supposed to be offset by the Argentine’s mobility and reading of the game. The former Ajax man could do nothing to get out to Ivan Toney on the counter, however, as the striker played a perfect early ball across for Mbuemo, who had breezed past the flailing Luke Shaw to finish.

Ten Hag made three changes at the break, apparently unaware that this season in the Premier League you can actually make five. There could be few other explanations for keeping eight of this lot on the pitch, but that the substitutions came at left-back, centre-back and in holding midfield suggested damage limitation was a significant part of the thinking.

After a second half that offered barely an ounce of encouragement, all that remains is to assess just quite how much has already been done.