MANCHESTER, England (AP) — There was relief, at last, for Erik ten Hag and Manchester United after a late 2-1 comeback win against Brentford on Saturday.
The wild celebrations that greeted the final whistle at Old Trafford, however, did not disguise the problems that continue to plague the 20-time league champions and prompted Ten Hag to demand action from his players.
“It has to be a turning point, but also a restart because we have to get into higher levels,” the United manager said. “The spirit is good, the belief is good and the team is together. We have shown that. We have shown strong character. It can be a turning point, but it is up to us.”
Two stoppage-time goals from substitute Scott McTominay got his manager out of a hole and secured a much-needed win.
Prior to the midfielder’s late interventions, United was on course for a seventh loss of a season that was threatening to unravel.
The joyous scenes at the end were in stark contrast to the boos that have rung around the stadium in defeats to Brighton, Crystal Palace and Galatasaray already this season. But while it was a stirring fightback, there was a repeat of the errors that have been so damaging to United’s season.
Casemiro was guilty of giving the ball away in a dangerous area in the buildup to Mathias Jensen’s first-half goal. Behind him, United’s defense was ill-disciplined and out of position. And goalkeeper Andre Onana was beaten far too easily yet again.
Casemiro may be a five-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid, but he was pulled at halftime as Ten Hag tried to turn the game round. And afterwards he reminded his underperforming team of the expectations that come with playing for United.
“First of all, when you can’t handle the pressure don’t play here,” he said. “Those players they are so experienced. These are so high quality players, so they have to take responsibility. I don’t point to one player, but I see it in the summer or the start to the season, we have to take responsibility.
“We need leadership to have a good organization and we don’t always have that.”
Victory was vital to lifting the mood at United going into the upcoming October international break, which is traditionally a period when Premier League managers have come under intense pressure.
While there has been no suggestion that Ten Hag’s position is at risk, even Brentford’s losing manager Thomas Frank admitted he was relieved for the Dutchman, who he said would have faced “brutal” questions on the back of another defeat.
“I know it is good for the manager, so I am happy for Erik, but of course not happy for ourselves that we didn’t win,” he said.