In a two-minute span, Manchester United fullback Diogo Dalot perfectly encapsulated what the 2021-22 campaign has been like for the Red Devils — full of miscues. United were sitting there inside the Theatre of Dreams, holding a one-goal advantage over Brentford in a Premier League match that really didn’t mean all that much in the end, other than celebrating their final home game.When the final whistle came from head referee Chris Kavanaugh, they would secure a 3-0 victory that still left them five points off the top four with just two games to play.
With their Champions League qualification chances all but evaporated (United won just one of their previous six), Dalot looked to play a simple pass back to David de Gea’s feet, instead missing badly to award Brentford a corner kick. Seconds later, he was on the other end of the pitch, attempting to send in a dangerous cross that in the end was as threatening as a fly. Then in just a matter of seconds came another chance at a dangerous ball in. Had it been a game of darts, he would have missed the board … and the wall from which it hangs.
Still, United had their moments in the victory, which was led by Cristiano Ronaldo. But much too often it was the poor execution and the failure to master simple basics that have plagued what was set to be a promising season. The head-scratching play, the poor execution of routine passes, the reliance on Ronaldo — it was another one of those nights where United were nowhere near good enough relative to where they want to be. Sure, they were decent enough to beat Brentford, but this showed just how far they are from, not only being a Champions League team again, but even being a legit threat to qualify for the competition.
Ralf Rangnick’s side were outshot by Brentford, 12-9, and at times outplayed. As Ronaldo ran to the corner for his signature celebration in the second half after converting a penalty kick to make it 2-0, the smiles and cheers from the fans felt almost forced. This is Manchester United, a giant in world soccer, reduced to an average team and a fan base holding onto past memories of dominance.
Brentford had their chances, just like every team against this abhorrent defense. But unlike others, they weren’t able to convert as Man United ended a streak of nine straight games where they conceded. Oct. 30 was the last time this team put together a performance that made you think they could be turning the corner. That 3-0 win at Tottenham feels like half a decade ago at this point, with so many underwhelming performances since then.
The attack, in large part, is Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and little else. In defense, the five teams ahead of them in the table have allowed on average 30.4 goals this season. United have conceded 52.
Our expectations [were] bigger than this,” Fernandes told Sky Sports after the match.”Our season has not been at the level it should be. There is nothing that we can do now.”
Even the fans aren’t performing. Some supporters stood at Old Trafford holding a sign that read “Walk out on 73 Glazers out,” referencing the owners the Glazer family, who also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
When the 74th minute came, those holding the sign were still there, failing to even do what they set out to. The team is rubbing off on them.
Throughout this season, the team has not managed to gel, and Monday was no different. They’ll hope incoming manager Erik ten Hag can fix that.
But for now, the only thing Man United are consistent at is being inconsistent.