Match report: United 2 Brentford 2
Dark Mancunian skies were lit up by an evening of stunning goalscoring as 30,000 fans watched an exciting friendly match for Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening.
Anthony Elanga put United ahead with a wonderful volley before Shandon Baptiste struck a sensational edge-of-the-box dipper to beat Tom Heaton and equalise.
Andreas Pereira topped the lot with one of the finest goals this grand old stadium has ever seen, volleying perfectly into the top right corner and rattling in off the crossbar, but Brentford substitute Bryan Mbeumo curled home an excellent leveller 12 minutes from time.
It was a positive night for United, the fitness levels clearly growing alongside the pace with which the side are playing. Brentford provided a tough test as they prepare for their first Premier League season in 74 years.
FIRST HALF - RED HOT ELANGA
Anthony Elanga has barely paused for breath since he came into the first team at the end of last season, scoring his first United goal on the final day of the campaign against Wolves. Pacey, direct and energetic, the 19-year-old winger has been a constant goal threat in all of our three pre-season games.
He hit his second goal in a week to put United ahead after 12 minutes, reaching behind him to thump home a wonderful volley. Our build-up had been very good, the Reds recycling possession across both sides of the pitch, stretching Brentford and creating space for the final, penetrative move. When it came, it was Aaron Wan-Bissaka who crossed low, perfectly picking out Elanga and he kept his balance well and brought Old Trafford to its feet with a fantastic volley that left David Raya with no chance.
Not only was it a goal of quality, but the sight and sound of thousands rising to their feet, gasping in delight, roaring in celebration - it's an experience for the senses that we've all missed. Elanga took it all in, beaming as he ran towards United's returning supporters.
It had been a strong start for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, brightening a dark, rainy evening with some fast passing, explosive counter-attacks and plenty of efforts on goal. Lingard came with two early efforts and then Greenwood with one before Elanga found the lead. The Swedish winger was lively, United's best player in the first half, but Brentford provided a stern challenge, although their own attacking ventures towards the Stretford End were initially rare.
Shandon Baptiste soon levelled for the Bees with a breathtaking strike. As United failed to clear a corner emphatically enough, Baptiste pounced on the edge of the area, striking with venom with the outside of his left boot and watched a dipping shot thump past Tom Heaton off the underside of the crossbar.
United looked to respond and Greenwood soon tried to equal Baptiste, making a perfect connection with a loose ball on the volley, only to see Brentford's Thompson almost unintentionally block the strike. Brandon Williams's importance to the squad has risen due to the recent injury to Alex Telles - who was watching on inside the stadium alongside Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes - and the young full-back attempted the magnificent with a first-time curler from a tight angle. The high-risk, high-reward approach didn't quite pay off, as his shot went wide.
As the rain began to first patter and then clatter down on the Old Trafford roof, the first half settled down. Before the break, though, May Haygarth, formerly of our Academy, tried to get a shot away after a bit of pinball in the United box, but couldn't do so. Lingard swiped at a loose ball on the edge of the box, scuffing wide after an explosive counter-attack begun by the in-form Wan-Bissaka.
SECOND HALF - ANDREAS STEALS THE SHOW
Soon after the restart, Andreas Pereira watched the ball drop down towards him and unleashed one of the best volleys Old Trafford has ever seen.
It had been a fast counter-attack from United, ending with Raya parrying away Lingard's curling effort. As Brentford cleared, Pereira bellowed for Wan-Bissaka to step out of his way and he struck a shot as cleanly as you could ever hope to see. Flying through the air with unstoppable power, the ball smashed in off the crossbar.
The Theatre of Dreams gasped. Goals like this don't come along very often, pre-season or otherwise. Few goals can be described as utterly perfect, but this one was - it needs replaying from every angle imaginable. Springing to their feet like everyone else, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his coaching staff, as well as the watching Fernandes and co., screamed in delight.
A string of substitutions followed on the hour-mark, United's two goalscorers heading off alongside Juan Mata to be replaced by Garner, James and Pellistri. The latter quickly engaged in his favourite activity, getting straight to the byline, crossing and winning fouls. Donny van de Beek joined the fray soon after, getting his first minutes of pre-season, alongside the young Hannibal and Shola Shoretire. Diogo Dalot has earlier come on at the break for his first appearance in a red shirt of pre-season, since his return from the Euros.
Brentford changed virtually their whole side for the final quarter of an hour and set up the chance for a grandstand finish with a Bryan Mbeumo equaliser. The Frenchman skipped past Dalot into space and eyed up Heaton before finishing emphatically past our summer signing after cutting into the box from the right wing.
Both sides searched for a winner, Mbeumo watching a free-kick deflect wide and Pellistri leading a couple of late charges, but neither could find it. It was a well-fought draw on an entertaining night.
United: Heaton; Wan-Bissaka, Tuanzebe, Mengi, Williams (Dalot 45); Pereira (Garner 61), Matic (Hannibal 75); Mata (Pellistri 61), Lingard (van de Beek 75), Elanga (James 61); Greenwood (Shoretire 75).
Subs not used: Grant, Levitt, Fish, Kovar, Hugill, Galbraith.
Goals: Elanga 12, Pereira 50
Brentford: Raya; Thompson (Stevens 75), Goode (Henry 75), Pinnock (Sorensen 61), Canos (Valencia 75), Toney (Forss 75), Fosu (Onyeka 61), Baptiste (Racic 75), Janelt (Peart-Harris 75), Roerslev (Dervisoglu 75), Haygarth (Mbeumo 61).
Subs not used: Gunnarsson.
Goals: Baptiste 20, Mbeumo 78