Manchester United’s Champions League hopes dented by late Brentford equaliser

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Kristoffer Ajer

31st March 2024 – (London) Manchester United’s aspirations of qualifying for next season’s Champions League were dealt a blow as they were held to a 1-1 draw against underdog Brentford in a Premier League clash on Saturday (30th March). Kristoffer Ajer’s 99th-minute equaliser shattered United’s hopes of securing a dramatic victory after substitute Mason Mount’s late goal had put them in the lead.

Despite Brentford’s dominance throughout the match, Mount’s 96th-minute strike seemed to secure an undeserved win for United. However, Ajer capitalised on Ivan Toney’s cut-back just minutes later, denying United the crucial victory. The draw leaves United in sixth place, trailing Aston Villa by 11 points for the coveted fourth spot. They also sit eight points behind fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, which could still secure them a place in the Champions League next season. Notably, Villa has played one more game than Spurs and United.

United’s disappointed manager, Erik ten Hag, acknowledged his side’s inferior performance against Brentford but expressed frustration over their inability to seal the win. Ten Hag emphasised that despite the setback, there are still numerous games remaining in the season, suggesting that United’s qualification hopes are not entirely extinguished.

Brentford, currently in 15th place, demonstrated their superiority in the first half, hitting the woodwork twice and creating several other scoring opportunities. United showed slight improvement in the second half, but Brentford’s goalkeeper Mark Flekken denied Rasmus Hojland a goal. The Bees persisted in creating chances, with Toney having a goal disallowed for offside and Bryan Mbeumo striking the crossbar.

As the game approached its conclusion, Mount’s goal appeared to secure United an unlikely triumph, leaving Brentford boss Thomas Frank stunned on the sidelines. However, the resilient hosts deservedly claimed a point with Ajer’s decisive finish, prompting Frank to praise his team’s character and their ability to bounce back after United’s late goal.