MAN UNITED 3, BRENTFORD 0
Manchester United produced one of the more impressive displays of a disappointing season to register a comprehensive victory against Brentford in the last home league game of the season.
Goals from Bruno Fernandes, Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane gave interim manager Ralf Rangnick his biggest win on a night of farewells.
As well as it being Rangnick’s last home game in charge, it was also the last time Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic and Edinson Cavani will appear at Old Trafford.
It was a win, in which the players displayed the spirit lacking in recent times, as they almost certainly cemented a place in next season’s Europa League, though hopes of a top-four finish have disappeared barring a freak set of results.
But United still need to win their last two matches at Brighton and Crystal Palace to reach 63 points their lowest-ever haul in a Premier League campaign set by David Moyes in 2013-14.Embed from Getty Images
Rangnick, who in his programme notes referred to United’s poor season as “this is not a fall but a stumble”, said: “We were in control for most parts. In possession that was one of our best performances this year. It was the type of performance we wanted to show to our supporters.
“We played with Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic and that gave us some quality in midfield. It was not too easy for Brentford to take the ball away from us. In the first half we played too many square and back passes but in general it was a good performance.
“In the end I’m not happy with the results [overall], especially in the last four or five weeks. Until the West Ham game we were still in the race in three competitions. We had good moments until that West Ham game, we conceded fewer goals but in the last few weeks performances have not been as good as they should have been. In general, we have lacked consistency.”
Rangnick added he had not spoken to incoming manager Erik ten Hag, saying: “It’s obvious quite a few players will leave and there is a need for top-quality players. I strongly believe that if everyone works together, we can bring Man Utd back to where we need to be.
“Other clubs only needed two or three transfer windows to challenge but from now on we need to bring in top-quality players who really help raise the level. If this happens then I don’t think it should take too long.”
Fernandes, the Reds’ captain, said: “Last game of the season at home, we wanted to give a good result and good performance.
“We know our standard has not been the same as we expect but last game of the season we finish well at home. Now we have more games to go so focus on those.
“We know that we always have to give something. The fans have been amazing supporting us. We know that our season has not been at the level it should be, but there is nothing we can do now but finish in the best way possible, win games and after that think of next season.
“It is a long time since I scored. Obviously I am happy but those numbers don’t count for me. I want to get numbers with trophies and not with goals.”
Brentford manager Thomas Frank said: “We played a Manchester United team who played well today, so congratulations to them.
“I think we started well for the first five minutes but then Manchester United were on top. Second half I saw much more my team I want to see play. We were back in the game but gave away a stupid penalty. It took a little bit out of everything and then we conceded on a set piece. Better second half.
“We were in the game [at 1-0]. We had opportunities and we were equally in the game, which was good.
“I don’t think it was a 3-0 defeat in terms of chances. I think it was a fair loss. We have had a very good season in many ways. We win or learn and today we learned a lot.”
There was only one change for United from the side that drew 1-1 with Chelsea on Thursday as Mata came in for Marcus Rashford, who dropped to the bench.
It was Spaniard Mata’s farewell appearance at Old Trafford before he moves on and this was his first start of the season.
Cavani was among the substitutes and featured for the first time since March 15 after recovering from a calf injury.
Brentford last played on April 23 with a 0-0 draw at home against Tottenham and Thomas Frank made two changes from the 11 that started that match as Christian Norgaard and Kristoffer Ajer replaced Saman Ghoddos and Mathias Jensen.
There was an excellent early tempo as both sides created half chances, the clearest falling to the Bees when Cristian Eriksen’s cross was looping in at the far post until David De Gea turned it over the bar.
The breakthrough came in the ninth minute through Fernandes, though great credit to Anthony Elanga for reaching a forward pass by the by-line as he cut the ball back for the Portuguese to rifle home from six yards for his first goal since February.
The celebratory cheers for Fernandes’ 10th goal of the season and 50th for the club were soon drowned out by the chants of ‘We want the Glazers out’.
Eriksen’s class shone through, especially with a looping cross from the right for Ivan Toney to head narrowly over from 10 yards.
United had claims for a penalty rejected after what looked a nudge by Mads Roerslev on Cristiano Ronaldo who did not help his cause by falling theatrically.
Mata linked superbly with Ronaldo with a return pass before firing narrowly wide as United came close to doubling their advantage.
United thought they had doubled their lead in the 44th minute, but Ronaldo’s effort was ruled out as he had strayed offside as he ran on to Mata’s ball in from the left following a counterattack.
Ronaldo was caught offside again setting up Diogo Dalot whose shot deflected off goalkeeper David Raya on to the crossbar and that was followed by Fernandes shooting narrowly wide.
De Gea was then twice called into action to beat away an Eriksen free kick from 30 plus yards and deny Toney with his outstretched right leg.
United finally added a second goal just after the hour after Ronaldo was barged off the ball by Rico Henry as he burst into the box.
Ronaldo stepped up to blast home the spot kick, his 23rd goal of the season and 18th in the Premier League which was again followed by chants for the Glazers to quit the club.
Nine of the Reds’ last 12 goals have come from talisman Ronaldo and eight of them have been scored at Old Trafford.
United made their first change with 20 minutes left as Fred replaced Matic.
It got even better for the Reds who added a third goal in the 72nd minute when Varane volleyed home an Alex Telles corner aided by a huge deflection which saw the ball loop over Reya’s head. It was the Frenchman’s first goal for United.
That was followed by two further changes for United as Elanga and Mata made way for Phil Jones and Cavani.
The 73rd minute sparked a walkout by a small number of fans while banners were also unfurled against United’s unpopular owners.