Manchester United will travel to London to take on Brentford in the Premier League on Wednesday evening. It was a match that should have been played back in December 2021 but was postponed because of coronavirus cases at the club, along with the match against Brighton and Hove Albion which is still awaiting to be rescheduled. Under Ralf Rangnick, United have lost just one match, drawing three times and winning four times, scoring ten goals and conceding six. It has not been the best and it has shown that those who blamed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for everything were in fact incorrect once again.
It looks like United will have up to five players back in the squad for this match, plus the option of youth players being added to the squad, which could be needed to show some of the players that there is life after them at United and if they need to be replaced, that could happen. United need to find a backbone and use it as at this time, with no new signings likely at the club this month. United need to have a plan and get something sorted. The lack of concentration which results in their opposition scoring and changing the game needs to be nipped in the bud and this squad of individuals needs to become a team. If that does not happen the rebuild is bigger.
Previous meetings with Brentford and their connections with Manchester United.
United and Brentford have not yet met in the history of the Premier League as this if the London clubs first time in the top flight of English football. In the history of the two clubs, United and Brentford have met a total of 13 times with United winning six times, drawing two times and losing five times. The last competitive fixture between the two sides was in the League Cup in 1975 with United winning the match 2-1 with goals from Sammy McIlroy and Lou Macari. The last time United lost to Brentford was in the FA Cup in 1938, a 2-0 defeat. The two sides met in pre-season in the summer, drawing 2-2 at Old Trafford.
Joshua Bohui is perhaps the only player to have played for both Brentford and United, although this was at youth level. The forward came through the ranks at Brentford signing from the Evolution Sports & Health Academy in 2011. In the summer of 2016, Bohui signed for United’s academy on a three-year contract. He progressed through the U18 and U23 sides for the club but at the end of his contract, he rejected (twice) the offer of a four-year contract at United. He has since played for NAC Breda, Colchester United, Waltham Abbey and Hayes & Yeading United. Max Haygarth is at Brentford B, leaving United’s academy in the summer.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Brentford in the Premier League at Brentford Community Stadium on Wednesday evening…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea is United’s best goalkeeper, even if he is getting criticism from social media users because Dean Henderson is better. The thing is, if Henderson was impressing in training, he would have been given a chance in the team by Rangnick, but he’s not yet been picked. It is a shame because Henderson is the future for United but De Gea has been consistently good making saves and helping United defer the damage. The Spanish number one is only as good as his defence though and the book is open on the poor defensive record this season. Things are improving there but it is a long way from being completed.
If United had a midfield that could do all the things a midfield needed to do, United’s defence would improve – not that the defence could sit back and watch the midfield do all the work – they would nee to continue to put in 100% too. Raphael Varane is probably the best defender at the club at this time and he will do what he does best – but he is only as good as his partner, which recently has been Victor Lindelof. De Gea could be great if the problems had been addressed and that is something that United need to get sorted as soon as possible. De Gea has given United his best years and I am sure he will continue to give his best for the club.
Defenders: Diogo Dalot, Phil Jones, Raphael Varane, Luke Shaw
The defence really need to up their game moving forward from the Villa draw. The fact that two goals were conceded in five minutes is a big problem that United need to be learning from. Aaron Wan-Bissaka might miss the Brentford match due to illness, which kept him out of the Villa match at the weekend. Diogo Dalot should keep his right-back position but he needs to learn that he could be seen as the weaker link in the defence which means he will need to strengthen his ability and find his feet in the role – if he wants to take on the best. Luke Shaw, who was suspended against Villa, should take back his left-back position and perform well.
In the centre of the defence, Raphael Varane and Phil Jones should partner again. They have performed well together once before in the match that Jones played, which was his first senior match in about two years. He was the only player praised for that performance and he should be given another chance, which might help the other defenders see that they need to up their game to be chosen to play time and time again. Maguire is a professional and has been a saviour to United at times since he signed for the club but more recently his performances have been poor and his form has suffered a lot. It needs to get much better for United.
Midfield: Fred, Scott McTominay
United’s midfield has been left to rot by the club. The wrong players have been brought to the club and there is no strength in depth or an ability to run matches from the midfield, which was done by the likes of Bryan Robson, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes etc – in recent history. Now, United have a player who seems to be injured more often than not with his contract expiring in the summer, a player who has lost his legs, a player hardly ever tested in the league and two players chosen for their hunger and the way they work together – a duo that most moan about but little has ever been done to rectify the problems.
It would seem that Fred and Scott McTominay will start against Brentford and they will be expected to be at the top of their game. Saying that, McTominay has scored a few recent goals with Fred assisting Bruno Fernandes at the weekend – so there is hope that they can continue that form this season and improve in their positioning and work towards getting United out of the hole the club has dug for themselves. In the summer though, United will need to bring in quality players, offloading those that are not right for the club, keeping the squad players and promoting youth to have strength in depth in these positions. Will they do it though? I’m not hopeful.
Attacking Midfield: Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Elanga
United have some great attacking talent with some good up and coming players in the academy. This is where United should be doing a lot of the creation but it has not been happening in that way. Against Villa on Saturday, Bruno Fernandes scored a brace, captaining the club, putting in a decent performance – which was something that he needed to do in order to keep his place in the team after an uninspiring period on the pitch. United have some options in these areas but form, ability and whether the player could be bothered seem to be a factor at this time, or at least that is what it looks like.
Anthony Elanga started against Villa at the weekend and he should keep his place in the team against Brentford. He seems to be undeterred by the fact he’s now playing for the first team – using his pace, skill and trickery to get the better of his opposition. This could be a good game for him, providing that he starts – he should have that in him given his energy. Mason Greenwood should start too – he needs to find his feet after a turbulent time at the club which has seen him not scoring a goal since the 1-1 draw with Young Boys in the final group stage match of the Champions League back in December. This match could be good for him.
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo has been missing for the last two matches with a hip injury and it has been suggested, by none other than himself that he could be back in action on Wednesday evening. He is the clubs top scorer this season with 14 goals and three assists – which could have been so much better if the creativity behind him was as good as it should have been. With Fernandes in some kind of form after his brace on Saturday, having him playing behind Ronaldo could see sparks fly and United get a decent 90 minute performance under their belts before they face West Ham at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Saturday.
Ronaldo has received some criticism since returning to United with some so-called supporters and pundits labelling him as the problem when it turns out that he is in fact one of the players who still has high standards and wants to achieve things with the club this season. The Premier League title is long out of the way for United, but cementing a place in the top four is the most they can achieve – not that missing out on Champions League football once again would be damaging – to anything other than the pockets of the Glazer’s. United should strive to get there though as failure has hung over this club for too long now and change is needed.
Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles; Jesse Lingard, Donny van de Beek; Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani, Jadon Sancho
United can name nine substitutes on the bench, having named just eight on the bench on Saturday, with options lacking. With players expected to return to the squad this weekend, the options should increase – even if youth players have to be given the chance, providing they are available. Dean Henderson will most likely be on the bench again, seemingly needing a chance at the club to se if he still has what it takes to succeed – considering that Rangnick has told him that he will be staying this season, not leaving on loan during the January transfer window, which is a good thing as United might need him at some point.
In the defence, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Alex Telles could be called upon from the bench should they be needed. The defence requires improvement, so it could be necessary to make some changes, depending how well Brentford play and how well United do on the pitch, which can only be seen on the day. In midfield, Jesse Lingard and Donny van de Beek could be there should they be required, which may happen very late in the match – which will be frustrating for them. In attack, where United have more depth, Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani and Jadon Sancho could all be selected, should United need to change their gameplay.
Written by John Walker