Football Features

Mata and Ronaldo prove that age is just a number as Man Utd end Eriksen’s dream Brentford start in style

By Ben Green

Published: 22:05, 2 May 2022

Manchester United’s quest to ensure they don’t register their lowest-ever points tally in Premier League history inched closer to reality this evening as Ralf Rangnick’s side battered Brentford 3-0 at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils entered this match-up against an in-form Brentford needing to win their remaining three games to avoid setting a new record for their lowest points tally since the Premier League’s inception in 1992. They’ve made good on the first hurdle, two remain.

That notorious 64-point season under David Moyes, the first of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, is shrouded in infamy, and while Ralf Rangnick can only match that particular tally if he wins his final two games, he will be desperate to avoid setting a new unwanted record.

Much of the pre-game narrative centred on Christian Eriksen’s burgeoning form since his return to football, going unbeaten in the six starts he has made for the Bees. And despite the eventual scoreline in the North West — ending his dream start — the Dane was once again a pillar of excellence as he orbited the turf.

The 30-year-old oozed class as he sprayed laser-guided balls and executed defence-splitting passes, creating more chances than any other player on the pitch — a commendable feat given his opponents netted three times and his side fired a blank. It was an exhibition of passing virtuosity.

As for the hosts, Juan Mata was afforded his first Premier League start of the season, and he more than vindicated his selection. The diminutive playmaker was at the heart of operations for Man Utd during his time on the pitch, a luxurious axis who kept the rhythm and fluidity at a high tempo.

Such was his impact that Man Utd made 400 or more passes in the first half of a Premier League game for the first time this season (407). Indeed there was a swagger about Rangnick’s men as they hogged the ball, threaded passes and kept possession like a Guardiola-inspired rondo.

In fact, Man Utd made over 700 passes for the first time in a Premier League game this season (711). As the old adage goes: class is permanent. It is a salient point for both Mata and Eriksen this evening. The duo combined to roll back the years in a Premier League throwback of playmaker grandmasters at work. All we needed was David Silva on the pitch.

But, they weren’t the only two who flourished at Old Trafford. Cristiano Ronaldo had one of his best games in a Manchester United shirt. Football’s Adonis-built marksman played like a man possessed tonight, tracking back and gunning forward in equal measure.

Bruno Fernandes may have broken the deadlock in the opening 10 minutes, but it was his Portuguese compatriot who stole the show. The 37-year-old was dropping deep to link play, pirouetting like a 25-year-old Ronaldo, producing flicks and tricks that were so prominent during his formative years at Old Trafford.

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He was duly awarded for his efforts on the hour mark after winning then converting a penalty to put distance between Man Utd and the travelling Londoners, before Raphael Varane put the gloss on a comfortable and emphatic 3-0 triumph.

Three goals, and three crucial points as Man Utd consolidate sixth and finish up at Old Trafford for the season in style. Ronaldo, Mata and Eriksen all proving that age is just a number.