When will the fight begin?
Anthony Martial made his first appearance since February in Sunday’s defeat at Newcastle, coming off the bench for 29 minutes. The Reds striker looked excellent in the limited time he got, particularly with a fast touch and shot that forced Nick Pope into a smart save.
Might Wout Weghorst’s 19 consecutive starts since signing on loan from Burnley come to an end this evening? The 30-year-old has only scored twice in that period, and there’s little doubt he’d benefit from a break.
Avoid an unwelcome record.
Another goalless draw at Saint James’ Park brings United’s league goal drought to three games, following a 7-0 loss at Anfield and a 0-0 draw against Southampton. The Reds have never failed to score in four consecutive Premier League games, most recently under Sir Alex Ferguson in the previous First Division in 1989.
Marcus Rashford has been rather quiet in recent weeks, revealing the club’s over-reliance on him. Erik ten Hag doesn’t care if it’s him or someone else who finds the net, as long as they avoid an unpleasant record.
A quicker start is required.
For a side in the hunt for a top-four spot, United have not been quick enough out of the blocks this season and have often been left chasing games. The goal difference in the first 45 minutes is -1, but it has climbed to +5 after the interval.
Brentford have been quick to get going this season and will take the game to Ten Hag’s side without hesitation. How they cope with that and counter-punch in the first-half could well set the tone.
More direct play to cope with
Both of Newcastle’s goals on Sunday came from crosses and if United think this evening will be any different then they are in for an unwelcome surprise. Brentford are not afraid to use every weapon at their disposal, whether it be crosses from deep, pre-planed set pieces or long throw-ins.
In their 3-3 draw with Brighton, two of their goalscorers were defenders and the other Ivan Toney – with all goals demonstrating the physical edge the Bees possess within their squad.
A psychological test
Neither Ten Hag nor any of his players will need reminding of the reverse fixture in the second week of the season, as Brentford made a mockery of them with a 4-0 win at the Gtech Community Stadium. Thomas Frank’s side ran 14km more than them in that game and Ten Hag was furious enough to have them in on their day off making up the distance.
Victory over Liverpool saw the Reds move on relatively quickly but the humiliation will still sting, and only a win to return into the top-four spots will relinquish the pain.