Scott McTominay was the hero for Manchester United with a late brace to end their winless league run at Old Trafford in a 2-1 win over Brentford.
In his pre-program notes, Erik ten Hag admitted that Man Utd were going through a rough patch.
“This has been a very difficult period for us all, without question,” he said.
“We are currently far from the levels and expectations we set for ourselves. None of us will attempt to hide from that fact. There is nobody in our club who doesn’t believe we are capable of improving.”
The Red Devils returned from the September international break with a 3-1 defeat to Brighton, ending a home league unbeaten run that stretched just over a year (since the Seagulls’ last visit to Old Trafford). That was the start of a terrible run of form for Ten Hag’s men.
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After losing to Brighton, Man Utd went to the Allianz Arena to face Bayern Munich in their Champions League opener and left with a 4-3 defeat. They followed this up with wins over Burnley and Crystal Palace, the latter at Old Trafford in the EFL Cup. However, those victories were no sign of things turning around.
The losing streak resumed as Joachim Andersen scored the only goal when Crystal Palace got their own-back at Old Trafford, this time in the Premier League. In midweek, Man Utd twice took the lead at home to Galatasaray in the Champions League but ended with a 3-2 defeat.
Saturday’s game threatened to heap a tonne of pressure on Ten Hag.
Brentford were the latest team to travel to Old Trafford smelling blood. Man Utd looked positive from the start, with Rasmus Hojlund threatening. However, it was Brentford who took the lead in the 26th minute through Mathias Jensen. It was a goal completely of Man Utd’s own doing.
Casemiro gave the ball away in midfield with a poor pass and then raced out of position to try to win it back with a slide tackle, leaving space. Man Utd then struggled to deal with the run into the box and Victor Lindelof’s attempted clearance looked more like a pass to a Brentford shirt. Jensen’s shot wasn’t the best but neither was Andre Onana’s attempted save, the Cameroonian allowing it under his hand and into the back of the net.
It was just the third time Man Utd have conceded the opening goal in four consecutive Premier League games at Old Trafford, having previously done so in February-March 2014 and July-September 2020.
“It has not been right all season for Erik ten Hag,” Chris Sutton said on BBC’s Final Score.
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“They have been lacklustre, they have been flat. The goalkeeper has been a big disappointment. The team have struggled to create anything at all.
“They can’t keep continuing to lose, especially in this manner. If they don’t get back into this game this afternoon, the manager could well be under pressure.”
Unwanted history was on the cards for Man Utd, staring a third consecutive home league defeat in the face. They had never lost three in a row at home in the Premier League area, and the last time they had lost three on the bounce at Old Trafford in the league came in February 1979.
Christian Eriksen, Antony, Alejandro Garnacho and Anthony Martial had all been brought on by Ten Hag and failed to make the killer impact. The Dutchman’s final roll of the dice was Scott McTominay, a man who has played just 203 minutes for the Red Devils across all competitions without scoring. Last season, he managed just three goals in 39 games.
But this wasn’t Man Utd’s McTominay that came on. It was Scotland’s. The midfielder has been a goalscoring pro for Steve Clarke this year, netting six goals in six games, including five in five in Euro 2024 qualifying. Thanks in part to McTominay’s goals, Scotland are on the brink of qualifying for next summer’s tournament.
McTominay has a bag of braces in Euro 2024 qualifying including one against Spain to secure a 2-0 win in March, shocking La Roja. Coming on in the 87th minute, McTominay went straight up front and six minutes later he had equalised with a neat finish following a bit of a scramble in the box.
A point would have been a positive given where Man Utd were, but an overall disappointment as it was another home game without a win.
So up stepped McTominay again to win it for Man Utd deep into injury time, heading in following a free-kick, his effort just too well-placed for Thomas Strakosha. Five touches, two goals. The first time McTominay has scored two goals in a single game for Man Utd, and it couldn’t have come at a better moment.
Known for their late comeback to win against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final in 1999, this was the first time Man Utd had trailed a Premier League game going into the 90th minute and gone on to take all three points.
“That might be one of my favourite moments on a football pitch,” McTominay told Premier League Productions.
“Two goals at the death was incredible, but I am just happy to be able to contribute and show people that I can do it.”
But McTominay admitted that he didn’t quite know what his instructions were, adding: “It was very loud, the fans were roaring us on so I couldn’t hear fully. He [Ten Hag] probably said something like: ‘Go on and score,’ which is what I did.”
Manchester United were minutes away from losing three consecutive Premier League home games for the first time in their history.
◉ 87' Comes on
◉ 90+3' Scores
◉ 90+7' Scores again
— Squawka Live (@Squawka_Live) October 7, 2023
Scott McTominay appreciation tweet.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 7, 2023
90+ – Scott McTominay is the first player to score two goals in the 90th minute or later of a Premier League game since Steven Bergwijn for Tottenham v Leicester in January 2022 – whose goals also saw his side come from behind to win the match. Scenes. pic.twitter.com/nWQM1OCuTL
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 7, 2023
Manchester United have turned it around! ⚽⚽
Scott McTominay gets two goals in added time to win it!
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) October 7, 2023
— Premier League (@premierleague) October 7, 2023
SCOTT MCTOMINAY. pic.twitter.com/9vSf8UAZWt
— utdreport (@utdreport) October 7, 2023
SCOTT MCTOMINAY SCOTLAND FORM FOR UNITED? pic.twitter.com/VZqcMDTQrC
— Fernansh Era (@BrunoFernanshh) October 7, 2023
McTominay when his teammates couldn't score. pic.twitter.com/JdhqgzL690
— M? (@Mo_utdred) October 7, 2023