MANCHESTER, England (AP) — There was relief, at last, for Erik ten Hag and Manchester United after a late 2-1 comeback win against Brentford on Saturday.
The wild celebrations that greeted the final whistle at Old Trafford, however, did not disguise the problems that continue to plague the 20-time league champions and prompted Ten Hag to demand action from his players.
“It has to be a turning point, but also a restart because we have to get into higher levels,” the United manager said. “The spirit is good, the belief is good and the team is together. We have shown that. We have shown strong character. It can be a turning point, but it is up to us.”
Two stoppage-time goals from substitute Scott McTominay got his manager out of a hole and secured a much-needed win.
Prior to the midfielder’s late interventions, United was on course for a seventh loss of a season that was threatening to unravel.
The joyous scenes at the end were in stark contrast to the boos that have rung around the stadium in defeats to Brighton, Crystal Palace and Galatasaray already this season. But while it was a stirring fightback, there was a repeat of the errors that have been so damaging to United’s season.
Casemiro was guilty of giving the ball away in a dangerous area in the buildup to Mathias Jensen’s first-half goal. Behind him, United’s defense was ill-disciplined and out of position. And goalkeeper Andre Onana was beaten far too easily yet again.
Casemiro may be a five-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid, but he was pulled at halftime as Ten Hag tried to turn the game round. And afterwards he reminded his underperforming team of the expectations that come with playing for United.
“First of all, when you can’t handle the pressure don’t play here,” he said. “Those players they are so experienced. These are so high quality players, so they have to take responsibility. I don’t point to one player, but I see it in the summer or the start to the season, we have to take responsibility.
“We need leadership to have a good organization and we don’t always have that.”
Victory was vital to lifting the mood at United going into the upcoming October international break, which is traditionally a period when Premier League managers have come under intense pressure.
While there has been no suggestion that Ten Hag’s position is at risk, even Brentford’s losing manager Thomas Frank admitted he was relieved for the Dutchman, who he said would have faced “brutal” questions on the back of another defeat.
“I know it is good for the manager, so I am happy for Erik, but of course not happy for ourselves that we didn’t win,” he said.
SPURS ON TOP
Ange Postecoglou’s impressive start at Tottenham shows no sign of slowing down. Even after going down to 10 men following Yves Bissouma’s second yellow card just before halftime at Luton, Spurs still moved to the top of the standings with a 1-0 win.
The former Australia and Celtic coach is unbeaten in the league and 20 points from the opening eight games of the season is the club’s best ever start in the modern era.
James Maddison appears to be taking on the role of talisman following the departure of Harry Kane in the off-season and he provided the assist for Micky van de Ven’s 52nd-minute winner.
With back-to-back league wins for the first time since March and three in a row in all competitions, Chelsea is beginning to take shape under Mauricio Pochettino. Meanwhile, Raheem Sterling is firing again and Cole Palmer has hit the ground running.
Even going behind at Burnley couldn’t derail Pochettino’s team as it completed a 4-1 rout at Turf Moor.
Sterling made a statement to England coach Gareth Southgate after he was left out of the latest Three Lions squad with a part in three of Chelsea’s goals, including one for himself.
Palmer, who was signed from Manchester City, got his first goal for Chelsea from the penalty spot after Sterling was brought down.
Everton responded impressively to last week’s home loss to Luton with a 3-0 win against Bournemouth. It was only the Merseyside club’s second win of the season and helped ease the pressure on manager Sean Dyche, while Bournemouth boss Andoni Iraola is still waiting for his first win in the league.
The Spanish coach was hired at the end of last season after earning an impressive reputation for his work at Rayo Vallecano.
But after Bournemouth’s disappointing start to the campaign, he gave an honest assessment of his performance so far.
“When you are in the relegation spots like we are now we have to be worried,” he said. “We haven’t won games so I’m not doing my homework but I feel like players are pushing and are really disappointed and I am more than happy to coach the players I have here.”
Sheffield United is also still looking for its first win since being promoted back to the top flight after a 3-1 loss at Fulham left the Blades at the bottom of the table.
Elsewhere, Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest drew 0-0.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
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