Abject Man Utd escape with draw despite conceding 31 shots to Brentford

Kristoffer Ajer –

There have been some dramatic late wins in the history of Manchester United but few that would have been quite so undeserved as this one, denied to them in the 99th minute by a remarkable Brentford equaliser that again turned an evening on its head.

When Kristoffer Ajer scored from close range deep into injury time he was not simply grabbing a point from nowhere but securing for Brentford the very least they deserved. They should have won this game – and yet with seven minutes of time added on it very much looked like they were about to lose it.

United seemed to have stolen it from under Brentford’s noses. An insipid performance from Erik ten Hag’s team in an engrossing game in which Brentford had somehow failed to score. With six minutes of the nine allotted to play at the end of the regulation 90 minutes, United at last launched an attack worthy of the name. It was led by Casemiro, who found Antony out wide and then later kept his head as the ball popped loose from a challenge to play in Mason Mount.

That it was Mount was remarkable itself. The £55 million man had not played any Premier League minutes since Nov 11, and yet here he was, a second half substitute sent on with Casemiro, as Ten Hag tried to inject some urgency into his side. Once a fixture of the England team, Mount is barely in consideration for this summer’s Euros after all those injury problems. He did take his chance beautifully, switching the ball from right to left and stroking his shot past Mark Flekken.

For the United support, ground down by another performance of baffling mediocrity, following that astonishing FA Cup tie against Liverpool, this was an unexpected gift. Perhaps, they might have thought, these are simply the kind of things that happen to clubs like theirs. Even with an expected goals metric in this game of 0.5 and an expectation of disappointment that felt as high as it ever does. Yet somehow United seemed to have plundered something.

Ten Hag would later say that his team came second in terms of aggression and initiative, although he hung on to those two minutes when – through Mount – his team somehow led this game. The United manager was defensive afterwards, acknowledging what was undoubtedly a very poor performance but conjuring from it a crumb of comfort that his team had almost won. Yet the two do not align – performances such as these for United are not the anomalies that the team has to ride out. They feel like regular occurrences.

To put the scale of this Brentford performance in perspective, they had 13 attempts on target when they beat United 4-0 in the same fixture in August last season. By the end of 103 minutes on this evening they had managed 31 and it was only Ajer who had managed to score. Those 31 attempts on goal from Brentford are more than they have managed in a single game for seven years. The 85 touches they had in United’s penalty area were two short of the Premier League record.

“I almost lost faith in the football god,” Thomas Frank would say later, “but he gave a bit back.” His team had been excellent. Before the Ajer goal, Andre Onana’s bar was struck twice, and the post once. Ivan Toney made the goal for Ajer and the Brentford captain was the game’s outstanding player. He had most of the United defence crowded around him in those dying seconds and still found the space to cut the ball back into the path of Ajer.

Kristoffer Ajer – Abject Man Utd escape with draw despite conceding 31 shots to Brentford
Kristoffer Ajer (second right) celebrates his last-gasp equaliser for Brentford - Getty Image/Adam Davy

Frank said that the performance had even been an improvement on last season’s 4-0 win – especially with his entire first-choice back four missing through injury. He was only able to summon Bryan Mbeumo from the bench but his contribution in the second half was significant. He had replaced Yoane Wissa, who had been irrepressible in the first half. Along with Toney, the three were much superior to United’s attacking trio.

Ivan Toney during the English Premier League football match between Brentford and Manchester United at the Gtech Community Stadium in London on March 30, 2024
Ivan Toney was thorn in United's side all night but was guilty of profligacy - Getty Images/Justin Tallis

Both United’s first choice centre-halves, Raphael Varane and then Victor Lindelof, came off injured. United lost ground on Tottenham, now eight points ahead of them in fifth – likely the last of the Champions League places. As a contrast from that mighty FA Cup performance it could not have been more stark.

Ten Hag’s two wingers Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho looked lost and were substituted in the second half. Rashford could barely bring himself to take on an opponent. Garnacho disappeared straight down the tunnel when he was replaced. Kobbie Mainoo started in midfield, and looked one of the more assured performers, yet that says much about United that they were once again reliant upon the teenager

Wissa hunted possession and his glorious first-time pass to Toney had created the chance for a shot that hit the United post. Mathias Jorgensen – aka Zanka – had hit the bar with a back-post header. In the second half Mbeumo electrified Brentford. His pass to Toney created a goal that was fractionally offside. Then Mbeumo hit the bar. But it was nothing compared to the finale when Mount thought he had won it and Brentford came back one more time.

Late Ajer stike saves point for Brentford: as it happened

10:39 PM GMT

Erik ten Hag full-time thoughts

Speaking to Sky Sports, ten Hag said: “If you are winning, you shouldn’t give it [the game] away.”

“We have a strong side, we are strong in certain situations and we have to bring it over the line, so that’s very disappointing.

“We made some mistakes. We have to talk about it. We should act differently on that occasion where we concede the equaliser. It was absolutely unnecessary.

“Maybe we didn’t deserve, but I have to make compliments for the team. They hung in the game and they kept fighting, although Brentford wanted more during the game, but then you have to take the game over the line.”

“Even when we don’t play well we have to win the game and we almost did. That is what disappoints me the most.”

“We should all stand up and all take responsibility for this.”

“We will keep fighting. It could be a very good point in the end.”

10:35 PM GMT

Thomas Frank full-time thoughts

Speaking to Sky Sports, Frank said: “There should have been only one winner in the game, that could only be us. 

“Then you go 1-0 down in the 96th minute and you think football is brutal. I almost lost faith in the football god but he gave a bit back.

“What a performance. We had our entire back four out. We completely dominated the game and there could only be one winner.

“These players deserve so much praise. They are a fantastic group of humans to work with.

“We had the most shots ever in the Premier League. How we didn’t win is incredible.

“It dropped for the right players that you want it to drop for, but that is football.

“I am very, very happy with the performance. It was more or less the perfect performance.”

10:29 PM GMT

Ivan Toney’s full-time thoughts

Speaking to Sky Sports, Toney said: “I feel like it’s points dropped, really.

“We looked at the stats in there [changing room] straight afterwards, and we don’t know how we’ve not scored more than one goal.

We hit the woodwork, three, four times, we’ve created good opportunities, but it means nothing when you don’t win the game.

“I feel like if you’re making that many chances, you’re surely expected to score more goals. I think we just weren’t clinical enough in front of goal, myself included. We’re disappointed in there.”

10:25 PM GMT

Mason Mount’s full-time thoughts

Speaking to Sky Sports, Mount said: “When you go 1-0 up right at the end you want to try and hang onto that.

“If you look at the game overall it wasn’t to our standard. We know that. When you score at the death you think you can maybe hang on. But maybe we didn’t deserve it.

“Brentford make it difficult. It is never easy coming here. They make it tough and get around you. Maybe we didn’t get it going from the beginning.

“We know we can improve and we need to because we need to win games. We will improve, we will work hard.

“These are the games you want to win. We need to step up and that is what we will focus on.”

10:22 PM GMT

Full-time verdict from the Gtech

Full-time. A remarkable end to the game. Brentford should have won but they will end the evening feeling that they avoided what would have been a crushing defeat, given their performance. They had 31 attempts on goal and it took them 99 minutes to score. An xG of 2.5. 

Ivan Toney was outstanding, especially in creating the equaliser for Kristoffer Ajer. United were mostly dismal. The players went to the away fans at the end to hand over shirts as a thanks for travelling on the Easter weekend. A move instigated by Bruno Fernandes, according to those who know these things.

10:21 PM GMT

Brentford boxing United in

10:12 PM GMT

That finale summed up in an image.

10:08 PM GMT

Full-time verdict

10:02 PM GMT

Full time: Brentford 1 Manchester United 1

What a breathless match here at the Gtech Stadium, and Brentford earn a deserved late equaliser to arrest their recent string of losses.

Brentford fans call themselves ‘a bus stop in Hounslow’, but this match might just be the epitome of London buses.

We waited all night for a goal, and then two of them came back to back right at the death!

09:57 PM GMT

GOAL! 98 mins: Brentford 1 Manchester United 1

And can you believe it, Brentford have equalised! 

Kristoffer Ajer smashes the ball in from close range after some fantastic work from Toney on the right-hand side of the box!

09:55 PM GMT

GOAL! - 96 minutes - Brentford 0 Manchester United 1

Smash and grab here at the Gtech Stadium and it’s Mason Mount who gets the winner and plunges the dagger into Brentford’s hopes of winning, steering the ball into the bottom right corner with his left foot.

09:52 PM GMT

94 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

The respite does not laast for long as Brentford win a free kick and gain more territory into the Man United half.

Mathias Jensen is primed to launch a long throw into a packed penalty area.

09:51 PM GMT

93 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

Man United have the ball in the Brentford half for once as they look to ease the incessant pressure on their goal.

09:48 PM GMT

90 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

NINE minutes of stoppage time announced by the fourth official.

09:46 PM GMT

88 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

Brentford have had 29 shots in this match, but only four have made it on target.

Sums up their wayward finishing tonight.

Will they find enough time for them to correct this before the final whistle blows.

09:44 PM GMT

85 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

Man United are hanging on for dear life in this match, as Brentford gain a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area. 

Mbeumo lays it off to Toney but the striker’s curled strike does not trouble Onana in goal.

09:41 PM GMT

82 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

Andre Onana breathes a sigh of relief as he softly palms an inswinging cross into the middle of the box before the ball is cleared for a corner, from which Toney volleys over the bar.

09:37 PM GMT

78 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

Brentford have hit the bar yet again!

This time, a quick free kick over the top of Man United’s defence provides substitute Bryan Mbeumo with a bouncing ball 12 yards from goal, but the forward lashes the ball onto the bar as Man United escape once more.

09:32 PM GMT

Writer’s thoughts from the Gtech

United looked better at the start of the second half but they have gone back to giving up lots of chances. Both first choice centre-halves are now off with injury. 

Thomas Frank will be very frustrated that his side have not scored. Yoane Wissa has been excellent and now Bryan Mbeumo on in his place for the last 20 minutes.

09:31 PM GMT

72 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

You can’t take your eyes off this game for a minute.

Substitute Antony curls a shot from the right-hand side that just whistles past the left-hand post.

Then Toney finally has the ball in the back of the net, dispatching a volley low past Andre Onana, before the linesman flags for offside.

09:28 PM GMT

70 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

The groans of frustration are growing louder at the Gtech, as Lewis-Potter’s close range improved overhead kick flies over the bar.

09:26 PM GMT

68 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

Lisandro Martinez is now coming on for Man United, replacing centre half Victor Lindelof who is hobbling off the pitch with the aid of the club physio.

09:24 PM GMT

64 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

Ivan Toney now comes close with a tremendous attempt, as he watches a long ball into the box onto his foot but his first-time hit just goes over the bar.

09:17 PM GMT

58 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

Wissa now comes inches away from breaking the deadlock with a glorious volley inside the box that kisses the outside of the post and goes wide.

This game has no goals so far, but has been thoroughly engrossing!

09:13 PM GMT

54 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

Some outstanding goalkeeping from both teams within the space of a minute has kept this game goalless!

First, Flekken denies Man United striker Højlund, as he plunges low to his right to pull off a remarkable reflex save.

Not to be outdone, Onana pulls off a brilliant double save, first from Yehor Yarmoliuk’s strike then flinging a knee out to block Keane Lewis-Potter’s follow up.

Breathtaking stuff in this match.

09:11 PM GMT

51 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

Manchester United are finally showing some signs of life in this match

Bruno Fernandes’ long-range strike tests the handling of Brentford keeper Mark Flekken.

And then, Diogo Dalot’s fizzing shot from 25 yards narrowly misses the target.

09:07 PM GMT

47 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

Shouts for a penalty ring out around the stadium, as Man United forward Alejandro Garnacho challenges for the ball, and raises his leg but Var quickly deems this harmless.

09:03 PM GMT

46 mins: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

Harry Maguire coming on in place of Raphael Varane...

Man United have made a change.

Harry Maguire has come on to replace Raphael Varane in central defence.

The Englishman will have his work cut out for him in the second half, based on Brentford’s first-half showing.

09:01 PM GMT

Writer’s thoughts from the Gtech Stadium

09:00 PM GMT

The first half’s key moment.

08:49 PM GMT

Half time: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

The half whistle goes at the Gtech Stadium and the home side will be wondering just how they have not managed to score.

08:47 PM GMT

45 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

A rare Man United foray forward earns them a free kick on the stroke of half-time.

Wissa catches Fernandes with a late challenge and earns a yellow card for his troubles.

But the resulting free-kick leads to nothing after Brentford easily clear a cross from the right.

08:45 PM GMT

42 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

Another Brentford breakaway, another corner.

Victor Lindelof slides in to stop a cross from the left.

Shortly afterwards though, Brentford defender Kristoffer Ajer has a shot that is straight into the midriff of Andre Onana.

08:40 PM GMT

Writer’s thoughts from the Gtech Stadium

“36 minutes played at the Gtech. At this point in this fixture last season, Brentford were 4-0 up. So, poor though United have been thus far, this is at least an improvement for them.

“Scant consolation for Erik Ten Hag. Brentford have hit the post and the bar.”

08:40 PM GMT

37 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

There is only one team in this contest so far.

Brentford are hustling and harrying Man United’s midfield at every opportunity, but they still cannot make the breakthrough.

Wissa’s latest attempt sees him miscue an overhead kick, steered wide of the goal.

08:37 PM GMT

34 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

Yoane Wissa has been formidable tonight.

His slide tackle on Marcus Rashford in the Brentford half initiates a quick counter attack from his side, and the ball finds its way to Toney who can only whip a shot well off target after creating an angle from 18 yards.

08:34 PM GMT

33 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

Zanka hands on head
Jorgensen coming to terms with hitting the bar with his header - Justin Tallis/Getty Images

And Brentford have now hit the crossbar.

Centre back Jorgensen is found in the box after a cross is swung in from the bar and his header back across goal bounces off the bar and out of play.

08:32 PM GMT

32 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

The away side are having to withstand mounting pressure here in West London.

Just a moment ago, Diogo Dalot made an excllently timed slide tackle to keep the game scoreless.

But Brentford have another corner now...

08:29 PM GMT

Writer’s thoughts from the Gtech Stadium

“Notable that United do not have the nerve to play out from the back. Andre Onana has gone long on both recent occasions he has had goal-kicks. 

Thomas Frank prides himself on his team’s high-pressing and it was the undoing of United at the Gtech last season. Constant ambushes and turnovers of possession.”

08:25 PM GMT

24 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

Ivan Toney angry
Toney bangs the turf in anger after hitting the post. - Justin Tallis/Getty Images

Toney hits the post!

Wissa threads a lovely through ball into his strike partner, and puts Brentford no. 17 through on goal, but the striker’s effort strikes the inside of the post and bounces out.

08:22 PM GMT

19 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

The home crowd are growing in noise now as Brentford gain a free-kick near the left hand corner of the 18-yard box.

Toney takes a low driving shot from the set piece, which is swiftly blocked but results in another corner for Brentford in these opening stages.

08:19 PM GMT

17 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

Brentford are getting closer to scoring this game’s first goal.

Some great work from Wissa sees him burst into the box and cut the ball back but Man United manage to just about clear their lines, leading to a corner for the home side.

08:16 PM GMT

14 minutes: Brentford 0 Man United 0

Manchester United are now starting to build some momentum.

Some nice play allows Bruno Fernandes to lay the ball towards Diogo Dalot at the edge of the box, and the full back fires a shot which is duly blocked, and leads to a corner that subsequently leads to nothing.

08:13 PM GMT

13 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

Manchester United have still yet to find their rhythm in this match.

Brentford are competing well so far, pressing Man United’s midfield within the middle of the pitch, and pouncing upon any loose passes.

08:09 PM GMT

6 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

Ivan Toney looks in the mood tonight.

Lurking on the far post, he nearly gets on the end of a cross from the left that is headed away for a corner by Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

From the resulting corner, the Brentford striker leaps high in the box but hooks his header wide of the target.

08:05 PM GMT

2 minutes: Brentford 0 Manchester United 0

This game has got off to a fast start. 

Brentford work the ball down the left-hand side and have a cross cut out by Kobbie Mainoo before Man United race up the other end, and Bruno Fernandes fires a shot from the edge of the box past the left hand post.

08:01 PM GMT

Some stats from Sam Wallace

“Brentford have lost four, drawn two and won two of their last seven home Premier League games going back to the start of December. They have lost seven and won two of their last ten Premier League games home and away. Easy to say but they need to win – or at least avoid defeat. “

“In their situation there are no free hits. The last home game, a hard-fought draw against Chelsea, has been followed by two defeats at Arsenal and Burnley. As for the table, Brentford are just four points and three places off Luton Town in 18th.”

07:59 PM GMT

Can Toney break his goalless run?

Ivan Toney has not scored in his last five games for Brentford. 

Can he terrorise Man United’s defence once again tonight to get his side a precious win?

07:52 PM GMT

The final outing for this fashionable kit.

“Reliably informed this is the last game in which United will wear their 2023-2024 stripy green away kit (official Adidas colour-scheme description: ‘Green Night, Core White, Active Maroon’). 

It might have divided opinion but apparently it has sold well.”

07:34 PM GMT

Could lighting strike twice at the Gtech tonight?

Dasilva celebrating
Josh Dasilva's celebration after getting the opener in Brentford's 4-0 win over Man United in August 2022 - Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Miserable United at Brentford
Man United were shellshocked the last time these two faced off last year. Can they avenge this humiliating loss this time around? - Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Brentford secured their largest ever Premier League victory against Manchester United, crushing their opponents in an emphatic 4-0 home triumph back in August 2022.

However, that memorable win at the Gtech Stadium last season is Brentford’s only win against Manchester United in their past 10 meetings in all competitions, having drawn one and lost eight of these previous encounters.

07:15 PM GMT

Martinez back in Man United squad

Lisandro Martinez has made it onto the Man United bench. 

The Argentine defender, 26, has not featured for the first-team since suffering an injury at the start of February.

07:09 PM GMT

Team news - Brentford vs Manchester United

Brentford XI:

Flekken, Yarmoliuk, Collins, Ajer, Jorgensen, Roerslev, Jensen, Lewis-Potter, Janelt, Wissa, Toney.
Subs: Strakosha, Maupay, Ghoddos, Onyeka, Mbeumo, Damsgaard, Baptiste, Trevitt, Kim.

Manchester United XI:

Onana, Dalot, Lindelof, Varane, Wan-Bissaka, Mainoo, McTominay, Rashford, Fernandes, Garnacho, Hojlund.
Subs: Heaton, Maguire, Kambwala, Martinez, Mount, Casemiro, Eriksen, Amrabat, Antony.

Referee: Simon Hooper

07:02 PM GMT

Brentford lineup

07:01 PM GMT

Manchester United lineup

06:58 PM GMT

Erik ten Hag’s pre-match press conference comments

And here is some of what Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag said in his pre-match press conference yesterday afternoon.

When discussing how his side are feeling returning from the international break, he said: “It was a wonderful break. It is always good to go with a win into an international break, but definitely such a win.

“The players go to international duties in other teams and playing styles and systems and now they return and they have to get back where we were, in our way of playing.

“Yesterday we started this process. It is a short slot and we have to be ready but we will be ready.”

The Man United manager also spoke about midfielder Kobbie Mainoo, after the 18-year-old gained his first two senior international caps for England, the second of which he earned several plaudits in the 2-2 draw against Belgium on Tuesday at Wembley.

“I thought Mainoo’s performance for England was very good but we are not surprised. We have seen that he can adapt very quickly to high levels and it looks very natural to him.

“[It is] Good for the academy at Manchester United that they bring a player up so quickly and he goes into England. Also good for all the ones who worked with him when he was coming up. 

“We have discussed this before [his rapid rise] and so far he handles it very well. He just wants to have fun on the pitch. For him, it is fun to be dominant and control games.”

06:46 PM GMT

Thomas Frank’s pre-match press conference comments

Here is some of what Brentford manager Thomas Frank said in his pre-match press conference earlier this week.

“It’s [this match] another good and tough challenge, but it’s another good and tough challenge no matter who you face in the Premier League. But we play at home, under the floodlights at the Gtech, so we and the fans need to be up for it and ready.”

“Me, players, fans, we all need to generate the energy and intensity in the game.”

When asked about Bryan Mbeumo, Frank said: “He played an in-house game on Thursday. He looked lively and good. He has progressed further this week in terms of fitness work and trying to get sharper and sharper.”

When discussing Ivan Toney’s recent form, he said: “Strikers need goals to keep their confidence. But the guy [Toney] is anyway a rare breed where he always seems to have a fantastic amount of confidence in him.”

06:33 PM GMT

A thrilling day in the Premier League has its final act

Good evening and welcome to our live coverage of Brentford versus Manchester United, which kicks off at 8 pm to serve as the final offering from today’s eight top-flight games.

All seven of today’s matches have featured plenty of goals and excitement, so let us hope the best of the day’s Premier League action has been saved for this evening encounter in West London.

This exact fixture at the Gtech Stadium last season saw hosts Brentford pummel the 13-time Premier League champions in a 4-0 thrashing back in August 2022.

How manager Thomas Frank would welcome another memorable triumph over Man United tonight, or indeed any win at all, given Brentford’s dismal league form at present.

Their disappointing 2-1 loss away at Burnley before the international break marked a seventh loss from their last nine league matches.

What’s more is that no team has earned fewer points from their last 18 Premier League matches than Brentford’s 10, leaving them in 15th and five points above the relegation zone, albeit a point better off than after their latest league defeat, due to Nottingham Forest’s four-point deduction last week.

Ivan Toney finding the back of the net once again will most certainly be pivotal for a change in Brentford’s fortunes, as the 28-year-old is scoreless in his last five league outings, although the striker did score his first international goal on Tuesday for England in their 2-2 draw versus Belgium.

Meanwhile, Manchester United return to first-team action for the first time since their epic 4-3 FA Cup quarter-final home win over Liverpool nearly a fortnight ago.

Tonight’s match heralds the first of two stern tests for United in West London, with Erik ten Hag’s men travelling to Chelsea in midweek after this encounter, so they will be keen on gaining maximum points from their double-header in the capital to bolster their hopes of Champions League qualification.

Indeed, with English clubs seemingly set to earn a fifth qualification place for next season’s edition, Man United now have an added incentive to embark on a strong finish to their league campaign in the hope of overcoming their six-point deficit behind fifth-placed Tottenham, as well as a vastly inferior goal difference.

On the other hand, another chastening defeat at the Gtech Stadium would not only lead to a return of the sirens which tend to signal yet another crisis at Manchester United, but it would also mark their 12th Premier League defeat of the season, a club record in the Premier League era.

Team news to follow shortly.

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