Brentford 1, Manchester United 1

Image: Brentford FC

Third Season: New dawn?

A new dawn has broken, has it not? Okay, Tony Blair said it first after the Labour Party’s general election victory of 1997, but it can be argued that Brentford’s magnificent performance against Man United was equally for the record books, and that despite only one goal being scored by the home side and one point – precious that it was – rewarded for their evening’s work, those who were present will never forget the occasion.

The Bees quite simply dismantled a famous side whose last game had been a 4-3 Cup win over Liverpool. Statistics in this game, collated by the BBC, revealed such as 31 shots for Brentford against 11 for MU. And 84 touches in the opposition box to a mere 15 for United?

What about corners, do I hear you ask? Fourteen racked up by the Bees, four by the visitors – if this had been a stats contest in a boxing ring, the referee would have stopped the fight.

The Gtech Stadium, scene of bitter disappointment all too frequently of late following a collection of first-team injuries, saw hundreds of supporters linger post-match to applaud the players on their lap of honour.

Every one of the starting side and substitutes deserved the accolade, but it would be wrong not to mention one who was – pardon me, if this is fanciful – more equal than others. Ivan Toney, of course, captain in the continued absence of regular skipper Christian Nørgaard, was a commanding presence in every way other than scoring a goal, a patent lapse that irritated him towards the end.

Following the new lightshow for evening games – very nice, thank you – United started as they presumably planned to continue, with a shot that went, wide, although probably not as wide as those in the Bees’ technical area would have wished.

Then Toney returned the favour before forcing a cluster of consecutive Brentford corners, six when last counted, and Yoane Wissa provided a gem of a pass that Toney failed to convert. Like a frisky dog, causing the visiting defence no end of problems, Wissa was less successful when trying to replicate his athletic goal of recent memory, sending the ball to somewhere in the crowd.

Image: Brentford FC

In the meantime, United were trying to knit together enough passes to penetrate the Bees’ defence and then despatched a free kick from only just inside their own half that Mark Flekken dealt with capably. But as the first half drew to a close, it was extraordinary that Brentford had not managed to find the net, rather than the surrounding area and four times the woodwork that unkindly did not allow the ball to rebound in the right direction.

United perked up somewhat in the second period, but not a lot. Certainly nothing to worry Flekken unduly, other than several opportunities that came to nothing when a well-placed striker sent the ball in the direction of Wissa’s earlier effort.

Wissa was not deterred, although really should have been when charging into the penalty area and seeking that elusive goal when Toney, as solitary as Greta (‘I want to be alone’) Garbo, was better placed and as ravenous as a pack of wolves.

No slight on Wissa, but the Brentford supporters welcomed Bryan Mbeumo, substituted in place of Wissa to resume his double act with Toney (one of those bullets that hit the crossbar was Bryan’s. And there was momentary joy in the crowd when Toney did score, but the polite expectation of the captain and his team as they awaited the VAR verdict signified, correctly, that he had strayed offside.

The last frantic nine added minutes contained stuff movies are made of. First, Mason Mount, returning from a period of injury, showed his team-mates how it should be done by scoring a fine goal about which Flekken could do nothing. Dismay all round, but then, three minutes later, Toney ‘s pinpoint cross into the box found Christian Ajer, who seized a gap in front of him to snatch the equaliser.

What’s the way forward? I asked my mate Charlie. Surely Thomas Frank will have a plan for everything to work out?

‘Heads up and keep going? suggested Charlie. ‘Is it not?’

Brentford: Flekken; Zanka, Ajer, Collins; Roerslev (substitute Maupay 96m), Jensen, Janelt, Yarmoliuk (sub Damsgaard 71), Lewis-Potter (sub Ghoddos 87); Toney, Wissa (sub Mbeumo 71).

Manchester United: Onana; Dalot, Lindelöf (sub Martinez 69), Varane (Maguire 45), Wan-Bissaka; McTominay, Mainoo (sub Casemiro 59); Garnacho (sub Anthony 59), Bruno Fernandes, Rashford (sub Mount 80); Hoøjlund.

Bill Hagerty is a contributing editor to the Bees United website.

Bill, who lives in Chiswick and is a former Fleet Street editor, was named Journalist Laureate 2023 the London Press Club awards:

READ ALSO: Former Fleet Street editor, Chiswick resident Bill Hagerty, is named Journalist Laureate 2023

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