Ralf Rangnick was justified in two major decisions as a memorable Anthony Elanga goal helped Manchester United sink Brentford 3-1.
Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the starting eleven following a hip injury. Fellow forward Anthony Martial also returned to the fold, taking a place on the bench with his spat with Ralf Rangnick now firmly put to bed. Anthony Elanga was also selected to start once again ahead of the likes of Martial and Marcus Rashford.
An end-to-end opening 15 minutes saw the first major chance fall to Brentford.
The Bees’ weight of numbers in attack saw United unable to clear their lines, with the ball fed to Mathias Jensen 12 yards out. The Dane shot hard and low, but David de Gea was equal to the strike when saving with his legs.
Further chances came and went in quick succession for Vitaly Janelt and Christian Norgaard. The hosts’ energy and desire was beginning to trouble their expensively assembled opponents.
That prompted United to dig in to prevent Brentford from building a head of steam. While they offered very little going forward over the next quarter of an hour, they did nullify the Bees’ threat.
But Thomas Frank’s side couldn’t be contained forever, and it was De Gea to the rescue once more when denying Jensen in a trademark stop with his feet.
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Cristiano Ronaldo came within a whisker of breaking his side’s malaise less than two minutes after the break.
A teasing Bruno Fernandes cross picked out his countryman at the far post. Ronaldo looped his header back across goal and over goalkeeper Jonas Lossl, but the ball didn’t dip in time when cannoning back off the bar.
As if United needed any warning, Brentford raced up the other end with a lightning quick break, with De Gea once again on hand to frustrate the hosts.
Elanga magic releases the pressure
The Spaniard’s heroics had kept United level but the scores would not remain deadlocked for long.
Fred picked up possession mid-way in the Brentford half. The Brazilian angled a sublime pass into the area that caught the onrushing Anthony Elanga in stride. The youngster’s first touch flicked the ball up and wrongfooted Lossl before the Swede headed home a truly memorable goal for the teen.
A moment of quality gives Man Utd the lead vs Brentford 🔥
Fred with the pass, Anthony Elanga with the touch and finish!
Rangnick's side badly needed that… pic.twitter.com/Ncfj0ISYRs
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) January 19, 2022
With the pressure valve released, United quickly made it 2-0 in a superb team goal.
Ronaldo superbly chested a long ball into the path of Bruno Fernandes. The attacker hared down on goal before squaring to Mason Greenwood to tap into the empty net.
Ronaldo and Greenwood soon gave way for Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire as Rangnick protected his assets. The substitution predictably did not go down well with Ronaldo, however, who proceeded to throw his jacket down and shake his head in the dugout.
Rangnick’s decision was quickly justified when Rashford made it 3-0 with a smart near-post finish from inside the area. Fernandes was the provider but Rangnick was the big winner who rather than celebrate, had a quiet word with a now more content looking Ronaldo on the bench.
Brentford pulled one back through Ivan Toney after United failed to deal with a long throw. But it proved little more than a consolation as the visitors left Brentford with a 3-1 victory and all three points.