Erik ten Hag said Scott McTominay’s stoppage time double to ease Manchester United’s crisis by beating Brentford 2-1 has to be a turning point in a troubled season.
United looked set to slump to a seventh defeat in 10 games after Mathias Jensen opened the scoring with the aid of some more poor goalkeeping by Andre Onana.
A third home defeat in eight days would have ratcheted up the pressure on Ten Hag, but he found an unlikely hero in McTominay.
The midfielder was only introduced on 87 minutes by Ten Hag, but reproduced his fine goalscoring form for Scotland of late for his club at just the right moment.
“This has to be the turning point, the reset, in our approach, our attitudes, as a team and as individuals,” said Ten Hag, who substituted stars Casemiro and Marcus Rashford in the second-half.
“From the start of a game you have to believe. The fans believed and kept behind us, we need to match that.”
Despite United’s terrible form of late, McTominay has had to be patient for his chance to shine and Ten Hag hailed his attitude to make a difference when called upon.
“Scott came into the game with the right attitude, on the front foot, full of energy. He was so determined to score that he made the luck,” added the Dutch coach.
“He is Manchester United, he always fights for the badge, for the shirt and the club. He will give his life.
“That attitude has to be for everyone. You have to earn the right to play for the club, the position demands it. That is not always what we have seen in the last few weeks.”
Victory lifts United up to ninth, but more importantly stops the rot after embarrassing home defeats to Crystal Palace and Galatasaray.
Another Onana error
Ten Hag’s task was not helped by a mounting injury list in defence with Raphael Varane’s absence adding to the unavailable Lisandro Martinez, Luke Shaw, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Tyrell Malacia and Sergio Reguilon.
The out-of-favour Harry Maguire was paired alongside 35-year-old Jonny Evans in central defence as a result.
But it was United’s under-fire goalkeeper who was the culprit for the opening goal.
Jensen’s low effort should have been kept out by Onana as the ball slipped through his right hand.
The Cameroonian goalkeeper, signed from Inter Milan for £47 million ($57 million) in July, has made glaring errors as United have also lost their opening two Champions League group games for the first time.
That lack of confidence carried over into Premier League action and United looked set to suffer a repeat of last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace as they laboured in the search for an equaliser.
Rashford looks a shadow of the player that scored 30 goals last season and there were cheers from the home crowd when he was sacrificed for Alejandro Garnacho just after the hour mark.
Ten Hag also sent a message by replacing the out-of-form Casemiro for the second period.
Antony was introduced for the final half hour for the first time in the Premier League since he returned from a leave of absence to confront allegations of domestic abuse.
But it was another substitute who might have turned United’s season around.
McTominay thought he had been denied his moment of glory when his first effort to find the net was ruled out for offside against Anthony Martial, who touched Garnacho’s cross into his path.
Brentford goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha was making his Premier League and did not cover himself in glory, undoing all of Brentford’s good work late on.
Firstly, he spilled Diogo Dalot’s shot and McTominay skilfully controlled and smashed home the loose ball.
Strakosha could also have done better with the winner as he failed to claw out McTominay’s header from Maguire’s flick-on, sparking manic scenes of celebration among the home fans.
© Agence France-Presse