Manchester United added another chaotic chapter to the tale that is their roller-coaster 2023-24 season on Saturday, as they scored twice in stoppage time to beat Brentford 2-1 at Old Trafford.

For 90-plus minutes, it was another lifeless, uninspired performance from Erik ten Hag’s side, as they stared a third successive home defeat in the face, and the worst start to a league season in nearly 40 years. Enter: Scott McTominay, fresh off the bench just moments earlier, the hero of the day.

The Red Devils were once again architects of their own demise in the first half, as Casemiro’s needless giveaway put the make-shift defense under unnecessary pressure in the 26th minute, concluding with the opening goal for Brentford. Bryan Mbeumo jumped the Brazilian’s passing lane when he tried to casually play Sofyan Amrabat inside the center circle. 

Three seconds later, it was a 5v5 flood of bodies heading the other way. Victor Lindelof stepped forward to cut out Yoane Wissa’s initial cross, but Casemiro couldn’t win the second ball against Wissa. It rolled harmlessly to Mathias Jensen, who found a path past two defenders and Andre Onana.

Manchester United briefly thought they had equalized in the 89th minute, when Kristoffer Ajer poked the ball into his own net, but the assistant referee flagged Anthony Martial for touching the ball first after being in an offside position when the cross came in.

Three minutes later, McTominay did indeed pull the home side level with a clever finish as the ball pinged around Brentford’s penalty area once failed clearance after another. McTominay brough it down from chest-high, swiveled and uncorked a right-footed strike all in one sweeping motion from 12 yards out.

From there, it was nothing but pressure by the men in red, and again it was McTominay in the right place at the right time. Andre Onana took a free kick in the attacking half of the field, headed down at the back post by Harry Maguire, and finally flicked over a flailing Thomas Strakosha in goal. Pandemonium and delirium inside Old Trafford.

By the time the full-time whistle had blown, Old Trafford was a joyous cauldron of celebration, but the real feeling evoked by the stoppage-time comeback was more one of relief than it was happiness or hopefulness — or, at least it should have been.

In the 45 second-half minutes preceding stoppage time — during all of which they were a goal down — Manchester United managed all of 0.33 xG on 10 shots. Brentford, by comparison, put up 0.41 on just three attempts while largely battening down the hatches and defending for their lives. 

Prior to stoppage time, Man United attempted just two shots from inside the penalty area — both very wide on the left side of the box, totaling 0.09 xG — with everything else coming from 20 yards and out.

Their only real scoring chances came from crossing and booting the ball into the box, hoping the Bees would failed to get it clear. A recipe for long-term success, that is not, but it was their get-out-of-jail-free card on Saturday.

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