Manchester United’s visit to the Brentford Community Stadium was one of the first matches Bees fans looked for when the Premier League fixtures were published in June.
We have not had a home game with United since April 1947 and have only played one competitive match with them since then, so it was always going to be one of those games which was a reward for reaching the top flight.
It was very disappointing that the original 14 December meeting was postponed so late, but the excitement around the fixture remains in the build-up to Wednesday’s rearranged date.
The fact that United re-signed Cristiano Ronaldo simply adds to the glamour of the game.
United were fifth in the table when we were due to play them – one point away from the top four – but they are now seventh, five points adrift of fourth-placed West Ham.
That is the position they were in, after a run of one win in seven Premier League matches, when they sacked manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Coach Michael Carrick was put in temporary charge, before the club appointed Ralf Rangnick as interim manager for the rest of the season.
Rangnick won his first three Premier League games at the helm – beating Arsenal 3-2 and Crystal Palace (at home) and Norwich (away) both 1-0.
But since then, they have drawn 1-1 at Newcastle, beaten Burnley 3-1, lost 1-0 at home to Wolves and then on Saturday drew 2-2 at Aston Villa, having been 2-0 up until the 77th minute.
Overall this season, United’s 32 points are split evenly between home and away games.
At Old Trafford they have won five and drawn one of their nine matches, while on the road they have won four and drawn four of their 10 games.
They have also reached the Champions League knockout stages and will play Atletico Madrid – however, they were originally paired with Paris St Germain, before the draw had to be redone owing to a “technical problem” which led to a mistake in the process.
They made an early exit from the Carabao Cup – losing 1-0 at home to West Ham in the third round – while they face Middlesbrough in the FA Cup fourth round after a 1-0 third round win over Aston Villa.
“Manchester United bring their expensively assembled band to town on Wednesday and we can’t fill Lionel Road with noise if we’re busy tutting on Twitter. We’re in the trenches now – what are you gonna do about it?”
WHO’S IN CHARGE
As mentioned earlier, Ralf Rangnick is in charge of United for the rest of the season, having taken over at the end of November.
The 63-year-old, who had been working as head of sports development at Lokomotiv Moscow, will stay on as a consultant at Old Trafford for two years once his time in charge of the first team finishes.
Ralf has spent most of his managerial career in Germany where he led both Hoffenheim and Leipzig into the Bundesliga and won the cup with Schalke, who he also led to the Champions League semi-finals in 2010/11.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Manchester United are another rare opponent for Brentford – with only 10 previous league meetings and three past cup fixtures between the sides.
The only game in comparatively recent times came in the second round of the League Cup at Old Trafford in September 1975.
The Bees took a shock lead in the 49th minute when Keith Lawrence headed in a Paul Bence free-kick.
But the advantage lasted only four minutes before goalkeeper Bill Glazier dropped Lou Macari’s free-kick over the line for the equaliser. Sammy McIlroy put United 2-1 ahead, but Dave Simmons missed the chance to earn a lucrative replay when he fired over an open goal from close range in the final seconds.
Manchester United: Stepney, Nicholl, Houston, Jackson (Grimshaw 50), B Greenhoff, Buchan, Coppell, McIlroy, Pearson, Macari, Daly.
Brentford: Glazier, Nelmes, Allen, Bence, Lawrence, Smith, Graham, Scales, French, Cross (Simmons), Johnson.
The match programme highlighted the fact that United boss Tommy Docherty was coming up against his namesake John, who was in the Brentford dugout, for the first time.
In his programme notes, Tommy pointed out connections between the two clubs with two of our ex-managers – Tommy Cavanagh and Frank Blunstone – on the United coaching staff, and our former left-back Stewart Houston in their line-up.
Another feature said that the Bees “had been messing around for far too long in Division Four”, before adding: “Tonight London’s only Fourth Division club – how long ago it seems now that they were proud members of Division One! – step out at Old Trafford looking for the upset of the round.”
That has been our only League Cup meeting so far, but we have met United twice in the FA Cup.
They hammered us 7-1 in the third round in 1927/28, while we earned revenge in the fifth round 10 years later – beating them 2-0 to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in our history.
In the league, we have won four, lost four and drawn two of our meetings.
Our past league results – with Brentford score first – are:
Division Two (now Championship)
1933/34 – (H) L 3-4 (A) W 3-1
1934/35 – (H) W 3-1 (A) D 0-0
Division One (now Premier League)
1936/37 – (H) W 4-0 (A) W 3-1
1938/39 – (H) L 2-5 (A) L 0-3
1946/47 – (H) D 0-0 (A) L 1-4
This summer we met in a pre-season friendly at Old Trafford, in a match full of quality goals which finished 2-2.
Anthony Elanga volleyed United ahead in the 12th minute, but that goal was eclipsed by Shandon Baptiste’s long-range leveller eight minutes later.
Andreas Pereira restored United’s lead five minutes after half-time with a 30-yard screamer, which flew in off the underside of the bar.
But substitute Bryan Mbeumo ensured it finished all square, with a lovely finish in the 78th minute from a Fin Stevens pass.
Q – How would you assess Manchester United’s season so far?
A – Close to disastrous – a huge big step backwards from last year with home defeats by Liverpool and Manchester City, and the nadir being the hammering by Watford that ultimately cost Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his job.
Qualifying as group winners for the knockout stages of the Champions League and the goals of Ronaldo have been the only bright moments, so Ralf Rangnick has a lot of work to do – and while results have improved since he took over, performances have been very hit and miss.
Q – Was the decision to sack Ole Gunnar Solskjaer inevitable and how would you reflect on his time in charge?
A – In the end the board had little choice, United were leaking goals, struggling to unconvincing wins against the likes of Villarreal and Atalanta, losing to Young Boys and West Ham, and getting played off their own pitch by Liverpool and Manchester City.
Once it became apparent Solskjaer was losing the faith of some of the players and results weren’t going to improve, a change had to be made.
Q – What do you expect Ralf Rangnick to change to improve results?
A – He has continually stressed the importance of balance, and making the team more defensively solid whilst not losing their attacking thrust in the aim.
At times he has adopted a 4-2-2-2 formation aimed at making them a team that can still counter quickly, but gets more bodies behind the ball when they lose it, and a partner for Ronaldo to help with pressing from the front. But recently he seems to have reverted to a formation more similar to Solskjaer to get the best out of the players he has at his disposal.
Q – What impact has the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo had on the side’s tactics and form, and also to the club and fanbase as a whole?
A – His goalscoring record speaks for itself – becoming the first man to pass 800 goals for club and country is a staggering achievement, and his late winners in the Champions League show he can still have a big impact in crucial moments.
However, there is no doubt United have struggled to get the best out of Greenwood, Fernandes, Sancho and Rashford since Ronaldo’s arrival – so how they build those parts around him will determine if the season is a success or not. The fans adore him, and will continue to join in his trademark “siuuuu” celebration as long as he keeps scoring.
Q – What would be seen as a successful season for Manchester United when it ends in May?
A – At the start of the campaign, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needed to deliver a trophy, and with the acquisition of Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho the expectation was to challenge for the Premier League title.
With just six wins in their the opening 13 games and the Norwegian’s sacking, that has been downgraded significantly – now the target is a top four finish to guarantee Champions League football again. That would be deemed a success, but if Rangnick can galvanise the squad and lift the FA Cup or somehow the Champions League, then he may get the job himself beyond the interim spell he’s signed for.
Q – Which United players should Brentford fans watch out for?
A – Do you really have to ask? Cristiano Ronaldo is the most lethal goalscorer on the planet and so cannot be ignored, but he is far from the only threat. Jadon Sancho looks to have settled and found his form after his big money move from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, while Bruno Fernandes is still the man most likely to create chances for himself and others operating just behind the strikers.
Q – What have you thought of the Bees from what you have seen on TV so far this season?
A – Brentford started the season really positively, and were rewarded with good results – the opening night win over Arsenal and the 3-3 draw against Liverpool being prime examples. However, despite scoring a lot, just two clean sheets in their last 17 league games suggest they, like United, are a little too open, something they will have to improve if they are to stay in the Premier League.
Q – How much are you looking forward to your first visit to the Brentford Community Stadium?
A – Can’t wait – I never had the opportunity to visit Griffin Park and the famous pub on every corner – but am looking forward to seeing the new stadium which will be number 75 of the current 92 for me.
The atmosphere is always electric when United visit a newly-promoted side, and under the floodlights a first meeting in West London in 74 years should be a really special night for the supporters.
Q – Finally can you give me a possible United line-up and formation please?
A – I expect United to line up like this – a 4-2-2-2, which allows Edinson Cavani to join Ronaldo in pressing from the front, but also the ability to drop back into a 4-2-3-1 when required.
Dalot Lindelof Maguire Telles
HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAME IF YOU CAN’T BE THERE
If you can’t get to the Brentford Community Stadium for Wednesday’s sold-out 8.00pm kick-off, there are various ways of following the game.
TV – The game is being shown live on BT Sport, with coverage starting at 7.30.
Radio – There will be live commentary on TalkSport.
iFollow – If you want Brentford commentary, iFollow audio coverage is available again this season via monthly or seasonal passes. Coverage starts half an hour before kick-off and is advert-free, with Mark Burridge, Charlie MacDonald and Jonathan Douglas.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS
For Manchester United fans coming to the Brentford Community Stadium for the first time, there are plenty of pub options pre and post-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).
The pub areas are split into two zones. There is the area around Brentford’s old Griffin Park stadium. The pubs there are still very busy on match day frequented by Bees locals before heading down the road to the stadium at Kew Bridge which is only 15 minutes walk.
Then there is the area in and around the stadium in Kew Bridge.
It is possible, if you have a good early start, to savour a few pubs in and around Griffin Park and Brentford zone before heading off to the pubs in the Kew zone or even vice versa if you so fancy.
Pubs in Griffin Park/Brentford zone
When at Griffin Park, Brentford was well known for its four pubs – one on each corner of the ground. Three are still operating.
The Griffin is closest to the old away end and has always been very popular with both home and away fans and has its regulars who still make the journey down to the new stadium from there on matchday. The New Inn is on the other side which used to also be popular with away fans before the move. The Brook pub is the other option if you want to savour a pub in and around what is left of our old home. Worth a peep if you want to reminisce about old Brentford.
About five minutes’ walk away from the old ground are two pubs which are enormously popular. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is a “lively but comfortable” pub on matchday. Incredibly friendly and cosy, it has always been popular with a selection of away fans who fancied having a beer a few minutes further walk away from the ground without having to queue six persons deep. After the move to the new ground, The Globe has retained many of lot its regulars from the Griffin Park days and with screens throughout the pub and in its sheltered beer garden, it shows both Premier League and EFL football before and after each match.
Meanwhile around the corner, The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) is another incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs about one minute walk from The Globe. Again with a TV screen for live sports and a lovely beer garden, this is another pub frequented by “away fans in the know”.
The other pub worth checking out in the Griffin Park region is The Black Dog Beer House, formerly The Albany, on Albany Road, if you like your real ales.
There are plenty of other pubs in and around Brentford High Street including real ale pub Magpie and Crown (Brentford High Street) and the cosy Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) near the river.
For a Griffin Park area pub crawl before heading over to Kew we recommend the following: Take the Piccadilly line to Northfields station. Turn left and walk for 2 mins and you will come to The Plough (Northfields Ave). Then walk to The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & then The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before hitting The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) and then The Black Dog (2 mins from The Griffin). You can also try and do the other three pubs on the corner whilst down here if you fancy.
Then you can then either walk (15 minutes from The Globe/The Nelson and The Griffin/Black Dog ) or take a train from Brentford station (which is five minutes walk away from both The Globe/The Nelson and The Griffin/Black Dog) or a bus (237/267) to Kew Bridge.
Trains run at 24 and 54 minutes past the hour to Kew Bridge from Brentford and take two minutes.
Pubs in the Kew Bridge zone
Right next to Kew Bridge station, you will find the Express Tavern – an ale pub with a retro feel. The pub has been refurbished in readiness for the new football season and needless to say, is popular before the match due to its close proximity to the stadium.
Across the road by the river is One Over the Ait – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge. This pub is situated on the location of the now-demolished Oxford & Cambridge pub where Brentford Football Club was founded in 1889.
Across Kew Bridge and the River Thames, there are two pubs on Kew Green – the Cricketers and the Greyhound – very close to the pier where Brentford fans have embarked on their away journeys by water to F*lham, Orient, Charlton, West Ham and even Southend.
North of the river along hoity-toity Strand on the Green, you will find The Steam Packet, in an old Cafe Rouge, and The Bell. A bit further down are The City Barge and the Bulls Head – two pubs side-by-side in which you would often see Ant and Dec hanging out.
There is also The Pilot which you can get to coming out of the BACK entrance of Gunnersbury station and we believe the old John Bull pub at the front of the station has been refurbed as The Gunnersbury but we have never been there so can’t give it a rating.
Transport to Brentford and Kew Bridge
The simplest on paper to get to Brentford FC from town is to get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) and then take the Overground train to Kew Bridge, which is right by the stadium. Brentford is one stop further on if you are on an ‘Original Griffin Park Pub’ mission.
With trains from Waterloo being only twice an hour (22 and 52) and taking 28 minutes, we normally recommend people jump on the tube from King’s Cross or Euston and head to Northfields or South Ealing on the Piccadilly Line as it is quicker (including the time getting across London and waiting at Waterloo) and trains are more frequent.
It is only 40 minutes max station by tube to station meaning you could be in a Brentford pub within an hour of embarking your train at Kings Cross, Euston or Liverpool Street.
The other station option is Gunnersbury. You can walk to the stadium from Gunnersbury tube station (District line) in 25 minutes or take a bus (H91, 237, 267, 110), but note that it is closed for entry for one hour after the match.
For the Brentford/Griffin Park pubs you can get the Piccadilly line tube to Northfields station from King’s Cross or Euston (35 minutes) then walk down to The Plough, The Globe, The Lord Nelson and The Griffin and other pubs from there.
The new stadium is around 25 minutes’ walk from South Ealing station – if you don’t fancy Gunnersbury – or you can get on the 65 bus from across the road which will drop you almost outside in 15 minutes.
You can also pick up the 65 bus from Ealing Broadway (district and central line) which will take you to the new stadium in 25 minutes.
You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.