Brentford welcomes under-crisis Manchester United to their cosy West London home. Thomas Frank’s smartly managed side kicked off their top-flight adventure last season with a rousing opening day humiliation of Arsenal. Backed by Ivan Toney’s graft, Mbeumo’s flair and later Christian Eriksen’s ingenuity, the Bees survived the drop comfortably. The latter, bridging the North-South divide, now dons United’s red, snatching the London club of much-needed midfield spark. But the Northern giants are in a hothouse of trouble. Their tepid loss to Brighton at Old Trafford left home fans sick and sour. 

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New boss Erik Ten Hag left Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench, opting to start Eriksen as the false9. It backfired miserably as the Dane struggled to impose his quality. Defensively, United were all at sea against the Gulls. Lisandro Martinez was bullied throughout while United’s midfield failings continued. At halftime, the Dutchman let loose Ronaldo, but it failed to secure the desired result. A brief 20-minute surge aside, there was little cheer for the United faithful. 

Brentford will be encouraged by their 2-2 draw away to Leicester City. Down two goals with 30 minutes left, they snuck a point via goals by Toney and Josh Dasilva. A Danish core – the twin Mads, Sorensen and Roerslev, midfielders Christian Norgaard and Mathias Jensen- was bolstered with the addition of the exciting Mikkel Damsgaard. Ben Mee’s arrival from relegated Burnley adds meat to their defence, while Scottish prospect Aaron Hickey gives them a daring option from the flanks. The regally named Keane Lewis Potter joined from Hull City. The young forward, sparkling in the Championship, is a typical Brentford buy and will be keen to impress. 

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Ten Hag will task his wards to attack from the get-go, but another disjointed outing will leave the record-Champions deep in the mud. Is he desperate enough to start Ronaldo? Perhaps he is. On the other hand, the home side starts as underdogs but will relish the challenge of knocking their more illustrious neighbours off their unsteady perch. 

Predicted lineups

Brentford (4-3-3): Raya (GK); Hickey, Jansson, Mee, Henry; Norgaard, Janelt, Jensen; Mbeumo, Wissa, Toney 

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea (GK); Dalot, Maguire, Varane, Shaw; Eriksen, McTominay; Rashford, Fernandes, Sancho; Ronaldo