CRAIG HOPE: Thomas Frank was right… Brentford didn’t stay up because of Christian Eriksen! They looked better WITHOUT him as they swarmed all over Man United in a display of verve, imagination and merciless brilliance
- Manchester United were thrashed 4-0 by Brentford on Saturday afternoon
- The Red Devils collapsed in the first-half as the hosts scored a blitz of goals
- United’s midfield was particularly weak with Eriksen and Fernandes struggling
- Ivan Toney did well to strengthen his claim at a future England inclusion
They were only playing Manchester United, but that should not detract from the verve, imagination and merciless brilliance of Thomas Frank’s Brentford.
If ever a lazy quip such as the Bees swarming all over their opponents could be forgiven, then this was it. They don’t half sting, too.
To think, Christian Eriksen thought he was leaving here for better things. Even in a United jersey he has created more goals for his former club this season, culpable in losing the ball inside his own area and allowing Denmark team-mate Mathias Jensen to fire the second on 18 minutes. Jensen had already robbed Ronaldo in the seconds before Josh Dasilva’s opener.
Christian Eriksen had an day to forget as he returned to the Brentford Community Stadium
In the battle of the No8s – Jensen versus Bruno Fernandes – there was only one winner. We call it a battle, United’s midfielder showed little appetite for a fight. Jensen, by contrast, was the game’s outstanding player. In fairness, he had plenty of competition, and none of them wearing the stomach-bile green of United.
Ivan Toney strengthened his claims for England inclusion with two assists which showcased both his strength and skill, a towering header in creating Ben Mee’s third and a tailored pass in laying on Bryan Mbeumo’s fourth.
The striker did not have to score to impress and it was no surprise to see United’s £55million centre-back Lisandro Martinez hooked at half-time. He won’t want to see Toney again any time soon. But Gareth Southgate might, especially given the torturous afternoon he inflicted on Harry Maguire, a player the England boss clearly rates highly.
Bruno Fernandes has not registered a goal or an assist in United’s opening two league games
Brentford striker Ivan Toney (R) was a handful for the United defenders all afternoon
A word for Dasliva, too. After two seasons in which he has barely played because of injury, two goals in as many games at the outset of this campaign has reminded us as to the talent of a player who is still only 23 years old. Fred and Eriksen were simply swamped by Brentford’s midfield three of Dasliva, Jensen and Christian Norgaard. Indeed, the latter, acting as the deep-lying pivot, made it look as if he barely broke sweat, and that is going some in temperatures of 36C.
But for all of the individual excellence, it was Frank’s instruction that helped unpick their hapless visitors. It was evident from the off that the Bees were prepared to set a honeytrap for United to fall into from their own goal-kicks.
And so, every time David de Gea rolled a pass short to one of his defenders – who looked like they had been tossed a grenade, not a football – Brentford pounced and pulled the pin. It was from one such comical pursuit that Eriksen lost the ball for Jensen’s goal.
The sight of De Gea pumping a long goal-kick just before half-time drew an ironic cheer from both sets of supporters – by then, of course, United were 4-0 down.
The United defence were calamitous when attempting to play out from the back
It was not just the goalmouth where Brentford closed their opponents. No blade of grass was off limits in their determination to unsettle a United team who lacked wit in beating the press. It was, in short, all too easy.
But what this did prove was that Frank was right when, on the eve of this game, he angrily rejected the notion that his side survived last season because of Eriksen. If anything, they looked better without him, so varied was the nature of their attacks, as opposed to going through one playmaker.
They finished 13th in May and, while it is early days, an improvement on that should absolutely be the aim if maintaining the desire, energy and tactical cunning of this performance.
The caveat is that Brentford will face tougher tests than Manchester United. They have Fulham and Colchester in their next two.
23-year-old Josh Dasilva shone on the pitch as the Bees dismantled United on Saturday