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39 min: After some treatment, and plenty of cold water, Rashford gets back up, good to go again.
38 min: Fernandes pings a pass down the inside-left channel. Rashford chases after it. Raya comes out of his area and shoulders the ball away from the United man, before taking a calm touch and blootering away from danger. Rashford stays down.
36 min: Ten Hag looks utterly perplexed. Staring into the distance. Nothing to tell his troops. He can’t believe what’s unfolding out there.
GOAL! Brentford 4-0 Manchester United (Mbeumo 35)
Jensen calmly dispossesses Sancho in his own box. The ball’s launched for a quick counter. Toney romps down the left, before slipping the ball infield for Mbeumo. He’s got a yard on the only defender left in the game. Shaw thinks about taking him down, but he’d get sent off. Instead, Mbeumo holds off his man, and slots powerfully into the bottom left. This isn’t just surreal, it’s positively psychedelic!
33 min: Eriksen dribbles down the right but his cross is easily blocked. A smattering of boos, but nobody’s particularly energised by it. The home crowd have other things to shout about. “Christian, what’s the score?” they trill.
32 min: Martinez was so easily outfought by Mee there. A penny for Ronaldo’s thoughts. You can be sure he’ll have a few things to say at half-time.
GOAL! Brentford 3-0 Manchester United (Mee 31)
This is a fiasco from United’s perspective, wonderful from Brentford. The corner’s hit long from the right. Toney heads the ball back across from the left. At the right-hand post, Mee stoops but still beats Martinez and taps a header home from a yard out. All of the colour has drained from Erik ten Hag’s face.
30 min: The free kick’s hit long. Maguire wrestles Jansson to the floor. Hickey wins a corner out on the right. And from that …
29 min: Jensen curls the free kick towards a group at the far stick. De Gea punches clear. Dasilva retrieves the ball and wins a free kick out on the left flank. Another opportunity for Brentford to populate the United box.
28 min: Hickey dribbles in from the right and is brought down by Fernandes, near the right-hand corner of the United box. Brentford load it.
27 min: The game restarts with a goal kick for United. Will they try to play out again? Nope. De Gea launches it. Ten Hag looks perplexed and none too happy.
25 min: … and that’s drinks. Thomas Frank gets out the tactics board. Erik ten Hag by contrast stands stock still, hands on hips, briefly staring at an imaginary object 1,000 yards in the distance. He finally snaps out of it and addresses his rattled team.
24 min: United stroke it around a bit, to very little effect. Rashford competes for a ball coming in from the right; Hickey calmly shepherds it out for a goal kick. “Who would have thought that reappointing Maguire as captain and building a defence around him, then asking de Gea to play out using his feet would result in a shambles?” asks Adam Roberts, because somebody had to.
22 min: The Brentford fans are enjoying this. “You’re getting sacked in the morning,” they sing. On the touchline, Erik ten Hag has the good grace to look very concerned.
20 min: Ronaldo tries to make something happen down the other end. He drifts in from the right and attempts the spectacular. His effort is always missing high and wide left. Ronaldo might be furious; his team-mates just look shell-shocked.
19 min: BREAKING NEWS: Ronaldo is fuming. It’s breaking news, but it’s not surprising news, is it.
GOAL! Brentford 2-0 Manchester United (Jensen 18)
From the goal kick, Martinez and De Gea try to pass out from the back. Eriksen is immediately stripped of possession on the edge of the box by Jensen, who adjusts himself before sweeping a shot into the bottom left. United are a shambles.
17 min: Jensen hoicks the free kick over the bar. But no matter, because …
16 min: Eriksen dallies on the ball and Toney goes barrelling off with it, straight down the middle. On the edge of the D, Maguire comes from behind and cleans him out. A free kick, but only a yellow, because fortunately for the United captain, Martinez had reacted well again, and was in close attendance.
15 min: Brentford ping the ball around in confident style. They slip it wide right for Dasilva, whose low drilled cross nearly finds Toney on the penalty spot. Martinez reacts well to poke clear, with Toney preparing to sweep a shot goalwards.
13 min: That was an appalling error from De Gea. A penny for the thoughts of a certain Nottingham-based goalkeeper. Meanwhile Ronaldo is claiming a foul in the build-up, but Jensen looked to have stripped him of possession efficiently.
11 min: United try to respond immediately, but Fernandes hoicks a long-distance effort a long distance over the bar.
GOAL! Brentford 1-0 Manchester United (Dasilva 10)
Brentford swarm United after the goal kick is taken. Ronaldo loses possession, then Dasilva, striding down the inside-right channel, threads a speculative effort towards the bottom right from 20 yards. It should be an easy claim for De Gea, but the keeper allows the ball to squirt through his hands and into the corner. Oh my, what an error.
9 min: A free kick for Brentford out on the right. They’ll surely lump it in … but Jensen and Norgaard over-elaborate. An intricate training-ground move breaks down, and the ball rolls out apologetically for a goal kick.
8 min: Hickey and Shaw compete for a loose ball. Shaw is a nanosecond later to the scene. For a second, it looks as though the referee is going to brandish yellow, but there wasn’t much in it, and a talking-to will suffice.
6 min: Mbeumo sends the corner in from the right. It’s only half cleared, allowing Henry to take a shot from long range. The ball sails miles over the bar. Early signs, though, that the United defence, smaller than the average, will be regularly tested under a few high balls.
5 min: A throw for Brentford deep in United territory from the right. Jensen flings it in. Some pinball. The United defence panics. Eriksen takes charge and pokes out for a corner.
4 min: United are seeing more of the ball during these early exchanges. Fernandes feeds Ronaldo down the inside right. Ronaldo takes a whack from distance. It’s an easy gather for Raya.
2 min: After a hectic ping-pong start, United put the first move of the afternoon together. Rashford turns into space and feeds Ronaldo down the middle. Ronaldo goes over in the general environs of Mee, and wants a free kick just outside the box, but he’s not getting one.
United get the ball rolling. A fantastic atmosphere at a sweltering Gtech Community Stadium.
The teams are out! Brentford buzz around in their red and white stripes, while United’s designers show plenty of devilment by sending their men out in neon lime. We’ll be off in a couple of sweat-soaked minutes!
Erik ten Hag speaks to Sky. “We have problems with numbers in offence, but Ronaldo has had two weeks in training, and is always a threat to score goals. The second half last week, when he came on, it made a difference, so I expect that today as well. In the second half we played really well. We have to react.”
Sky presenter Kelly Cates asks Brentford boss Thomas Frank how the “extraordinary” heat will affect the match. His forecast: “Both teams will try to play with as much intensity as possible, but I’m not in doubt that there will be spells when both teams try to rest a little bit, before being ready to go again.”
Pre-match postbag o’pessimism. “He’s playing Fred?” splutters John Reed. “Must be a misprint. I scored Fred 1/10 last week and that was generous.”
David Wall meanwhile is playing a long game. “People at United are saying that ten Haag has to, and will be, given time. But suppose they lose here. They’ll obviously lose at home to Liverpool, and then Leicester and Southampton are places that they’ve struggled to win at in recent years. Then it would be a resurgent Arsenal who are starting to look like a dangerous and resilient side again. Will that patience remain if they go a couple of months without winning? And should it?”
One way or another, we may come back to reassess these conversational gambits at full time.
Brentford make two changes to the XI named for their opening-day draw at Leicester. Mads Roerslev and Josh Dasilva replace Yoane Wissa and Vitaly Janelt, both of whom drop to the bench.
Just the one change for Manchester United from Erik ten Hag’s first competitive selection last week against Brighton. Cristiano Ronaldo replaces Scott McTominay, who takes a seat on the bench. Christian Eriksen faces his old team.
Brentford: Raya, Hickey, Jansson, Mee, Henry, Roerslev, Norgaard, Jensen, Mbeumo, Toney, Dasilva.
Subs: Wissa, Ghoddos, Onyeka, Strakosha, Lewis-Potter, Damsgaard, Baptiste, Janelt, Sorensen.
Manchester United: de Gea, Dalot, Maguire, Martinez, Shaw, Eriksen, Fred, Fernandes, Sancho, Ronaldo, Rashford.
Subs: Malacia, Varane, Heaton, Wan-Bissaka, van de Beek, Elanga, Garner, McTominay, Garnacho.
Referee: Stuart Attwell.
Manchester United may not be very good at the moment, but they remain forever box office. Last weekend’s pitiful display at home to Brighton has cranked up the pressure on Erik ten Hag after one match in charge – I know, I know, but this is life in 2022 – and a second successive defeat, while almost unthinkable at the start of the new manager’s supposed honeymoon period, is far from unlikely.
By contrast, Brentford started their sophomore season in the Premier League with a spirited two-goal comeback to salvage a point at Leicester. Accordingly, their spirits are high, while the expectation as minnows is low. None of which serves to help the visitors, who really need to get something tonight ahead of next week’s game with Liverpool. However, say what you will about this United team, but they often produced a big result when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer really needed one. Can they provide similar succour for their new boss? After last week’s debacle, they certainly owe him something. Kick off is at 5.30pm. It’s on!