Manchester United has some hope. The question is how much?
A last-gasp 2-1 win over Brentford after going 1-0 down in the 90th minute mitigated another disappointing performance, but United will hope it gives them a springboard to revive their season.
Scott McTominay was the hero, scoring twice from the bench in the 93rd and 97th minutes to seal the unlikely victory.
Andre Onana looks lacking in confidence and full of errors, Casemiro was substituted at half-time and Marcus Rashford also endured another difficult spell.
But after two home defeats, Erik Ten Hag’s side are now on the verge of winning again and head into the international break on the verge of avoiding crisis.
How big is this finding or is it just covering up the cracks?
Lori Whitwell: Old Trafford has not seen celebrations like this for a long time. McTominay’s stoppage-time double turned disaster into euphoria, and the stadium was filled with a sea of twirling ends backed by incredible noise.
It brought to mind Steve Bruce’s late brace 30 years ago, which turned defeat into a beautiful victory for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. The difference is that United were then on course for the title. This win puts United in ninth place in the standings. Ideas of tournaments are far-fetched.
Indeed, before McTominay scored his goal, Ten Hag’s tenure was heading towards a deep crisis. Brentford fans were mocking him with chants of “sacked in the morning,” while United were heading for a third consecutive defeat at home in the league. The last time this happened was in 1979.
United have avoided that damning statistic but the worrying aspect is that for large parts of the game United looked devoid of ideas. In addition, Brentford’s goal was perhaps the worst United have conceded, a series of errors committed by the Ten Hag players.
Ten Hag replaced Casemiro and Rashford, two of its best players last season, and a loss would have eliminated hope of the coach’s ability to stay. These issues still exist. But the manner in which the team achieved this victory, and the energy that was witnessed at Old Trafford at the final whistle, could be the catalyst for a deeper transformation.
Who deserves credit for winning?
Dan Sheldon: Ten Hag will thank McTominay for turning this game on its head.
As the game entered its final stages, Brentford were going deeper and deeper, and United were starting to pile on the pressure without any final product.
But when McTominay scored his first goal in the 93rd minute, tempers erupted at Old Trafford and it was inevitable that they would score again.
The noise inside the ground grew louder and louder until Harry Maguire’s header from a free kick was headed into the net by McTominay. Ten Hag bounced around the technical area knowing how important the Scotland international’s goal was.
United controlled large parts of the match but McTominay’s desire to win this match was absolutely astonishing. He was a man possessed for the last few minutes.
Who was in charge of Brentford’s opening match?
Ahmed Waleed: If you had watched United’s comical errors during the week against Galatasaray in the Champions League, perhaps this was not so surprising.
First, Casemiro lost the ball in his own half to give Brentford the opportunity to attack, then Harry Maguire dropped deep instead of moving into counter-pressing and winning the ball back quickly – something Ten Hag requires of his team.
Victor Lindelöf’s poor clearance then allowed Yoani Wissa to pass Matthias Jensen into the penalty area, and the Danish midfielder shot the ball into the back of the net.
After his poor pass left United down to 10 men against Galatasaray, Onana should have blocked Jensen’s shot here too, as Jensen’s shot was down the middle and close to his hand.
Is it right for Onana to remove him from the line of fire?
Dan Sheldon: When you consider how United dealt with the departure of David de Gea, which paved the way for them to sign Onana, it would be a big decision if Ten Hag decided to leave him out after the international break.
However, when the Stretford End fans cheered ridiculously midway through the second half after Onana collected the ball, it was hard not to think the fans’ patience was beginning to wear thin.
The 27-year-old was supposed to add a new dimension to United with his distribution, but the goal kicks against Brentford, with Jonny Evans playing him a short pass and then kicking it wide, were bizarre.
Ten Hag needs the signing to succeed, so ruling him out would be an admission on behalf of the Dutchman that Onana may not be the answer to his goalkeeping woes.
Two clean sheets in 11 matches is a poor return, but with an ever-changing defence, will Altay Binder fare better?
Why does Rashford keep coming off when United need to score?
Dan Sheldon: Quite simply, Rashford was not good enough.
He has scored just once in the Premier League this season, in a 3-1 defeat to Arsenal in September, and provided one assist.
Ten Hag admitted on Friday that the winger is struggling to find his form, and that his performance against Brentford left a lot to be desired. While he retains the support of the United manager, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Dutchman to keep him in the starting lineup – especially when you take into account the club’s struggles this season.
Alejandro Garnacho waits in the wings and his name is often sung by the Old Trafford crowd.
The young Argentine always looks lively when he comes on and adds energy to United’s attacking line, something Rashford has been unable to do for several weeks.
There was a good assist by Rasmus Hoglund against Galatasaray, but it did not count as United lost the game.
(Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images)
“Coffee ninja. Web fan. Hipster-friendly beer enthusiast. Professional creator.”