Erik ten Hag criticises 'passion and desire' of Man United after draw at Brentford

Red Devils' Champions League hopes take severe blow with top-four rivals Aston Villa and Spurs both winning

Erik ten Hag's Manchester United are now 11 points behind fourth-place Aston Villa. Reuters
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Erik ten Hag criticised the “passion, desire and determination” of his Manchester United team after a disappointing 1-1 draw at struggling Brentford.

It looked as though United were going to secure an undeserved three points when £55 million summer signing Mason Mount came off the bench to score his first goal for the club deep into added time.

But then Ivan Toney – who scored his first international goal in England's draw with Belgium on Tuesday – pulled the ball back for Kristoffer Ajer to level in the ninth minute of injury time.

With Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur – who sit fourth and fifth in the table, respectively – both winning on Saturday, United's hopes of qualifying for the Champions League next season are hanging by a thread.

They remain in sixth place, eight points behind Spurs and 11 shy of Villa, although they do have a game in hand on Unai Emery's men.

It was a deflating performance from United, especially considering they went into the recent international break on a high after a last-gasp 4-3 extra-time win against Liverpool at Old Trafford to reach the FA Cup semi-finals, where they will take on Coventry City at Wembley Stadium.

“We were winning in the end, maybe it wasn't deserved but then you have to take the three points so the it is very disappointing to draw the game,” admitted Ten Hag at the Gtech Community Stadium.

“Brentford were better than us today. They showed more passion, desire and determination as we did. The quality of this team is they fight for it, but we have to show more. We scored the goal but then threw it off the line.”

When asked if it was acceptable for other teams to show more passion and desire, the Dutchman replied: “No never. We showed it against Liverpool and in many games. We have to bring it on the pitch.

“We fought but in the small things, second balls etc, Brentford were more focused and more aggressive and it should be the other way round.

“We were winning, we should compliment the team for that, but then we gave it away and that is very disappointing.

“There are still many games to go. Of course the points could be more expensive by the end. It should have been three points. By the end we will know. It could be an important point.”

“When you go 1-0 up right at the end you want to try to hang on to that,” added Mount. “If you look at the game overall it wasn’t to our standard. We know that. When you score at the death you think you can maybe hang on. But maybe we didn’t deserve it.”

Ten Hag had shrugged off speculation over his job this week before returning to the scene of his catastrophic second match in charge, when they conceded four goals in the opening 35 minutes.

On the evidence of this underwhelming performance, they have hardly made any progress since that chastening afternoon in August 2022.

In fact, Brentford had enough chances to stage a repeat performance of their 4-0 romp but for the wayward finishing which has made their season a significantly tougher one than the last.

They had 31 attempts at goal and hit the woodwork four times despite going into the game having lost 14 of their last 18 matches.

“There should have been only one winner in the game, that could only be us,” said Brentford manager Thomas Frank, whose team are now five points clear of the relegation zone.

“Then you go 1-0 down in the 96th minute and you think football is brutal. I almost lost faith in the football god but he gave a bit back.

“What a performance. We had our entire back four out. We completely dominated the game and there could only be one winner.

“These players deserve so much praise. They are a fantastic group of humans to work with. We had the most shots ever in the Premier League. How we didn't win is incredible.

“It dropped for the right players that you want it to drop for, but that is football. I am very, very happy with the performance. It was more or less the perfect performance.”

Next up for Brentford is a home game against Brighton on Wednesday, while United are also playing in the capital – against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge 24 hours later.

Updated: March 31, 2024, 7:08 AM