Manchester United have some hope. The question is: how much?
A last-gasp 2-1 win over Brentford from 1-0 down at 90 minutes glossed over another underwhelming performance but, United will hope, gives them the springboard to reignite their season.
Scott McTominay was the hero, scoring twice off the bench in the 93rd and 97th minutes to claim the most unlikely of victories.
Andre Onana looks short of confidence and full of mistakes, Casemiro was taken off at half-time and Marcus Rashford also endured another difficult afternoon.
But after two home defeats, Erik ten Hag’s side now have a win again and head into the international break just about avoiding a crisis.
How big a result was this or did it just paper over cracks?Laurie Whitwell: Old Trafford has not seen celebrations like that in a long time. McTominay’s injury-time double turned disaster into ecstasy, the stadium a sea of whirling limbs backed by an incredible noise.
It recalled to mind Steve Bruce’s late brace from 30 years ago, which switched defeat into sweet victory for Sir Alex Ferguson’s team. The difference is that back then United were on course for the title. This win puts United into ninth in the table. Thoughts of championships are a long way off.
Indeed, before McTominay scored, Ten Hag’s tenure was lurching into deep crisis. Brentford fans were taunting him with chants of “sacked in the morning”, as United headed for a third consecutive home defeat in the league. The last time that happened was in 1979.
United have averted that damning statistic but the alarming aspect was that for large parts of the game United looked devoid of ideas. Additionally, Brentford’s goal was possibly the worst conceded by United, a litany of mistakes by Ten Hag’s players.
Ten Hag took off Casemiro and Rashford, two of his best players last season, and a loss would have sucked hope from the manager’s powers of survival. Those issues remain. But the manner of this comeback victory, the energy in Old Trafford at the final whistle, could be the catalyst for a deeper turnaround.
Who deserves credit for the win?Dan Sheldon: Ten Hag will be thanking McTominay for turning this game on its head.
As the game entered its final stages, Brentford were getting deeper and deeper, with United starting to pile on the pressure without any end product.
McTominay celebrates as Brentford are stunned (Photo: Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)
But when McTominay scored his first goal in the 93rd minute, Old Trafford erupted and it felt inevitable they would score again.
The noise inside the ground grew louder and louder until Harry Maguire’s header from a set piece was headed home by McTominay. Ten Hag bounced around the technical area, knowing how much the Scottish international’s goal meant.
United dominated large parts of the match but McTominay’s desire to win this game was quite the spectacle. He was a man possessed in the final few minutes.
Who was to blame for Brentford’s opener?Ahmed Walid: If you had seen United’s comical errors during the week against Galatasaray in the Champions League, then this was maybe not so surprising.
First, Casemiro lost the ball in his own half to provide Brentford with the opportunity to attack, then Harry Maguire dropped deeper instead of moving up to counter-press and win the ball back quickly — something Ten Hag requires from his team.
After that, Victor Lindelof’s poor clearance allowed Yoane Wissa to find Mathias Jensen inside the penalty area, and the Denmark midfielder’s shot hit the back of the net.
After his weak pass resulted in United dropping to 10 men against Galatasaray, Onana should have saved Jensen’s shot here as well, with Jensen’s shot central and near his hand.
Fernandes and Maguire can’t believe the opener (Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Is the right thing for Onana to take him out of the firing line?Dan Sheldon: When you consider how United handled David de Gea’s departure, paving the way for them to sign Onana, it would be a huge decision if Ten Hag decided to drop him following the international break.
However, when the Stretford End ironically cheered midway through the second half after Onana gathered the ball, it is hard not to think the fans’ patience is 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, where Jonny Evans would play a short pass to him and he would then kick it long, were bizarre.
Ten Hag needs the signing to work, so dropping him would be an admission on the Dutchman’s behalf that perhaps Onana is not the answer to his goalkeeping issues.
Two clean sheets in 11 games is a poor return, but with an ever-changing defence, would Altay Bayindir do any better?
Why does Rashford keep coming off when United need to score?Dan Sheldon: Quite simply, Rashford hasn’t been good enough.
He has only scored once in the Premier League this season, during the 3-1 defeat away to Arsenal in September, and has one assist.
Ten Hag admitted on Friday that the winger is struggling for form, and his performance against Brentford left a lot to be desired. While he retains the United manager’s support, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Dutchman to stick with him in the starting XI — especially when you take into account the club’s struggles this season.
Alejandro Garnacho is waiting 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 forward line, which is something Rashford has been unable to do for several weeks.
There was a good assist for Rasmus Hojlund against Galatasary, but it counted for nothing as United lost the match.
(Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images)