Erik ten Hag and Man United were HUMILIATED on their last trip to Brentford and slumped at the bottom of the league... heading back to the scene of the crime 19 months on, they must show lessons have been learned


When Erik ten Hag walks through the corridors of the Gtech Community Stadium and into the away dressing room on Saturday night, he’ll be forgiven for harbouring any feelings of anxiety or trepidation.

Last time he brought Manchester United there he witnessed a complete humiliation; four first-half goals seeing his side, spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo and anchored by David de Gea in goal, ripped to pieces.

Two games into his Premier League career, Ten Hag was on the hotseat with United wholly embarrassed and sitting bottom of the league table. The spotlight was blinding just 180 minutes into the season.

‘I thought United would do better but they have been mauled, bullied, messed about with like you wouldn’t believe, and there’s nowhere to hide.’

Erik ten Hag suffered a humiliating defeat at Brentford that had Man United bottom of the table

Erik ten Hag suffered a humiliating defeat at Brentford that had Man United bottom of the table

Cristiano Ronaldo (right) led the attack and Man United return this Saturday much changed

Cristiano Ronaldo (right) led the attack and Man United return this Saturday much changed

He wasn’t done there.

‘I have been watching United for 42 years and I can’t think of a moment when I have thought things have been as bad as that in the first half.

‘Today was a new low. It seems continually that Manchester United can surpass their previous lows. When is the lowest low going to come? The reality of it is, this is really, really bad.’

MUST, the club’s Supporters’ Trust, were equally unimpressed, going to the lengths of releasing an official statement on the back of the defeat.

‘What we have witnessed tonight is an embarrassment – no, a humiliation – for Manchester United fans. And yet in many ways it was not a surprise.’ That pay-off was a sign of how far United had fallen.

It was, even two games in, a huge moment for Ten Hag and his management. How would he react? The answer: a day off was swiftly cancelled. Players would have to make up for the 13.8km Brentford ran more than them.

Ten Hag ran the distance too, a sign that he was as responsible for the embarrassment as much as the players. That won favour in the dressing room. It was unorthodox but it worked and United went on to beat Liverpool 2-1 in their next match.

‘It’s easy to play pre-season, you play for nothing, but when you play games that matter you need bravery, to be more consistent, and be proper players,’ De Gea said after Brentford, before taking responsibility for his own individual errors.

‘In my case, it wasn’t the case today, and I need to keep working. Head up, and stick together as a team. We have a lot to learn from a new manager.’

Brentford mauled United in the 4-0 win but are expecting a tougher test this time around

Brentford mauled United in the 4-0 win but are expecting a tougher test this time around

Ten Hag (left) cannot afford a repeat amid ongoing scrutiny around his future at Man United

Ten Hag (left) cannot afford a repeat amid ongoing scrutiny around his future at Man United

David de Gea was culpable for mistakes that day and he has since been shipped out of the club

David de Gea was culpable for mistakes that day and he has since been shipped out of the club

Fast forward 19 months and Ten Hag is still under the microscope even with a trophy in the cabinet and a shot to go to back-to-back FA Cup finals. That’s the life of a Man United manager.

He returns to Brentford with a host of new players – specifically a new goalkeeper in Andre Onana who can play out from the back as Ten Hag desires – and the high of ending Liverpool’s quadruple bid still fresh.

There will be no Ronaldo, no Jadon Sancho, and no Fred, while Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire are injured and Christian Eriksen is out of favour. United, at least in terms of personnel, arrive with a totally different make-up.

But as Ten Hag knows well by now – far better than he knew after the mauling at Brentford last time around – receiving flowers at Man United doesn’t last long. Lose at Brentford and the scrutiny will be amped up to the max once more.

United can ill-afford setbacks at this stage in the season. They cannot commit to a one step forward, two steps back approach with their hopes of landing Champions League football hanging so precariously.

Brentford is a key game for United in their hunt to land Champions League football next season

Brentford is a key game for United in their hunt to land Champions League football next season

Alejandro Garancho (left) will expect to play a key part having stepped up in recent months

Alejandro Garancho (left) will expect to play a key part having stepped up in recent months

Andre Onana (middle) is between the sticks now and this will be a test of Man United's resolve

Andre Onana (middle) is between the sticks now and this will be a test of Man United’s resolve

They are currently nine points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa and six shy of fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur. With the potential that fifth is enough for a Champions League spot – England could be handed an extra place based on UEFA coefficient – it is time for Ten Hag and his players to show the progress they have made.

Lisandro Martinez is a totally different player to the one last seen at Brentford; Alejandro Garancho was an unused substitute that day and is now one of United’s most important players; Kobbie Mainoo’s confidence is sky high after making his senior international debut with England; Marcus Rashford and Antony will hope their goals against Liverpool provide a springboard to finish with a flourish this season.

Ineos and Sir Jim Ratcliffe are watching Ten Hag’s every move and while short-term results are unlikely to sway them too much, repeat the humiliation of their last trip to Brentford and he may well hurt his case to stay on as manager beyond repair.



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