A single half will certainly have been enough for Manchester United supporters to accept the total sinking. The second for their team this season. The observation is both as simple as it is implacable for the Red Devils, apathetic as ever after this masterful setback against Brentford (4-0), Saturday evening, and a catastrophic first half.
More than a stinging defeat for the players of Erik ten Hag, this time it is a capital slap that is likely to be remembered for a long time. Facing them, the Bees achieved a “masterclass” of efficiency and realism in front of goal thanks in particular to Danish midfielder Mathias Jensen, in a real state of grace, and while taking advantage of the many Mancunian defensive errors.
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United’s defense quickly sank
While the return of Cristiano Ronaldo to the starting XI was a strong signal for Manchester United before the match, the first ten minutes served only as illusions for a soulless and spiritless Mancunian collective. On a recovery in midfield after pressing triggered at lightning speed, Mathias Jensen, already propelled Josh Dasilva close to the surface. His shot in stride caused a handball from De Gea and awakened the feverishness of the Red Devils (10th).
New example eight minutes later with a six-meter played in two stages in the area. An approximate raise for Christian Eriksen and an additional loss of ball, it was enough for Mathias Jensen (18th) to drown a rearguard of the Red Devils in absolute loss of bearings.
Without aggressiveness or intensity in the duels, the partners of captain Harry Maguire then continued to plunge into a bottomless pit. It was also his teammate Lisandro Martinez who was supposedly marking Ben Mee (30th) on a corner passing from the second to the near post, without any reaction from a more than passive defense.
Taken to recovery in his own camp, Manchester United was also on the counterattack. Like on this perfect release from the indestructible Jensen on the penultimate pass and a caviar from Ivan Toney for the Frenchman Bryan Mbeumo in the area (35th). Enough to end an attacking festival in style for Brentford and cause an endless headache for the Dutch coach of the Red Devils, Erik ten Hag.
Ronaldo, a half-hearted return as a starter
The only small glimmer of hope for United was the ever-present desire to score for Cristiano Ronaldo throughout the game. His countless attempts, however, brought to light the inability of a collective to play a long part of the match against Brighton without him, or with him as in Brentford.
Obliged to play his part as a soloist several times (4th, 20th, 50th, 52nd, 86th…), the Portuguese has only very rarely combined with his friend Bruno Fernandes or even Christian Eriksen, who are nevertheless interesting in the game. His relationship with Marcus Rashford was also close to nothing. A feeling of waste so much on paper that it is however brought to make sparks for a club in search of its past splendour.
The opening defeat against Brighton could suggest a mistake of course, that of this Saturday is the most glaring illustration. The life-size reality of the deep malaise of the Red Devils for several seasons. And to say that Liverpool are showing up for the next day at Old Trafford for a historic derby is far from reassuring a collective already adrift.
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