Brentford struck late on to deny Manchester United an undeserved win

Brentford scored late to pull out of a wild game (Getty Images)

An extraordinary game ended in dramatic fashion when substitute Mason Mount appeared to steal a deserved victory for Manchester United, before Kristoffer Ajer grabbed a 98th-minute equalizer to ensure Brentford picked up a point.

Hundreds of angry Brentford fans streamed up the stairs and out into the night as Ivan Toney got away from sluggish substitutes Lisandro Martinez and Casemiro before jabbing the ball across the six-yard box for Ajer to fire home. It was their 31st shot, and in the end Andre Onana was hit. A 1-1 draw was the least Brentford deserved.

That warm fuzzy feeling that United felt at the end of their incredible FA Cup win over Liverpool two weeks ago was dissipated in half an hour of their hosts’ control. By half-time Brentford had taken 15 shots, hit the post and the crossbar and United’s determination were forgotten. By the end of 90 minutes, Brentford had taken 30 shots and it was a big surprise that they didn’t score. They almost lost one of the most one sided games you will ever see.

In a weekend where Erik ten Hag had to speculate about his future, this night did nothing to help his cause. This was not United’s strategy to stir up pressure, lull Brentford into a position of false security before stealing the game. There were no rope-a-dope tactics here. It was an away team completely besieged, unable to deal with it and escaping with a lot of luck, looking like relegation strugglers trying to survive.

Ten Hag’s problems went beyond Brentford’s relentless attack on his team. Both Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof had to be replaced after picking up injuries. Martinez made his first appearance in two months as a substitute, a sight that was welcomed by United fans and much needed given the dire circumstances. Brentford, meanwhile, finished the game victorious thanks to their performance and a late goal, but were frustrated that they could not get a valuable win in their fight against relegation.

After a slow start, Brentford began to take the game to United, pinning them inside the box and keeping them there. Set pieces were the weapon of choice as the visitors escaped with seven corners and a free kick on the edge of the area in the first 30 minutes.

Toney’s best chances came: first, a header from a corner that he glanced wide, then one-on-one with Onana after he got behind Yoane Wissa’s clever first-time pass. Toney shifted his body to the right and fired the ball to Onana’s left, but it bounced back off the inside of the post and United went back to clear.

Ivan Toney slams the floor in frustration (AFP via Getty Images)Ivan Toney slams the floor in frustration (AFP via Getty Images)

Ivan Toney slams the floor in frustration (AFP via Getty Images)

Big center Mathias Jorgensen hit the crossbar a few minutes later with a powerful header after one of Brentford’s more intelligent short-corner routines as shots rained down on the United goal. Toney, who captained in Christian Norgaard’s absence, tried again as he dribbled past a stricken Lindelof and shot inside the box, but missed the target when he might have expected to score.

What United did in the first half was defend hard and not do much with 56 per cent of the possession which that particular statistic required a double check. As they approached the Brentford box and a wall of defenders in red and white, the pace slowed to a halt as if they had suddenly stumbled into a forest of mist. The highlight of United’s half of forgetfulness was Kobbie Mainoo passing the ball bluntly, and accurately, with his shoulder.

United started the second half with more pace and intent as Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Dalot scored, and they drew a brilliant save from Mark Flekken when Fernandes set up Hojlund in the penalty area. Hojlund shot hard at goal with his first touch and Flekken turned to his right to push the ball to safety. The stadium gasped and United players seemed to be bewildered.

At the other end, Onana had to be just as sharp, diving low to his right to keep out Yehor Yarmoliuk’s low shot heading for the corner, then leaping up to block Keane Lewis-Potter’s follow-up . Toney watched a long pass carefully before flashing a superbly controlled volley just over the bar.

Ten Hag didn’t take long to make a change, replacing Alejandro Garnacho and Antony, but the Brazilian failed to inspire as he did against Liverpool and Brentford were in search of a winner.

Bryan Mbeumo was given a standing ovation as he entered the fray in his first appearance since December and was almost the hero, first crossing accurately for Toney to score only for VAR to overrule, then crashing home a volley against the crossbar. The crowd behind the goal groaned.

Then they roared as Casemiro rolled into Mount on the left side of the box to hit across Flekken and into the far corner. Ajer responded, but Brentford should have taken much more. Somehow United escaped with one more point than they deserved.

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