Manchester United ease past Brentford with a comfortable 3-0 victory in their final Premier League home game of the season.
United produced one of their best attacking displays in recent memory, in Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic's final home game, against the Bees with goals from Bruno Fernandes. Cristiano Ronaldo from the spot, and Raphael Varane proving the difference.
The result means United have closed the gap on fifth-placed Tottenham to three points with only two away games at Brighton and Crystal Palace left to play. For Brentford, meanwhile, Thomas Frank's side remain in 14th on 40 points.
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Brentford started confidently but it was United who went in front inside the opening ten minutes. Diogo Dalot's lofted ball up the right flank found Anthony Elanga, who cut the ball back for Fernandes to score his first United goal in 11 matches, and his 50th for the club.
Ivan Toney came close to an equaliser in the 21st minute when he headed just over David de Gea's bar ten minutes before Mata almost extended United's lead with a driven shot just wide of David Raya's left post.
And it looked as though Mata had turned provider for a Ronaldo goal in the 44th minute when he squared across on the counter-attack for the Portugal international to tap in, but VAR ruled it out as the 37-year-old had strayed just offside.
Brentford again looked bright in the opening stages of the second half with Christian Eriksen causing United's midfield a host of problems, but Ralf Rangnick's side extended their lead just past the hour mark.
Ronaldo was naively barged over in the box by Rico Henry and referee Chris Kavanagh did not hesitate to point to the spot. Ronaldo coolly tucked his spot-kick into the bottom corner for his 18th league goal of the season.
And another United goal soon followed in the 79th minute to kill off any chance of a Brentford comeback. Varane grabbed his first Premier League goal when his close-range deflected volley from a corner deceived Raya.
TALKING POINT – FAREWELL MATA AND MATIC
It was a fitting farewell for Mata and Matic as they got to experience a rarity in recent years: An enjoyable evening at Old Trafford.
The duo may have declined as footballers in their advancing years, but generally their peformances since arriving in 2014 and 2017 respectively were never the crux of United’s woes over the past decade, and have been productive, albeit understated, club servants who have had more of a positive than negative impact at United.
Both players were rightly applauded as they left the Old Trafford pitch, in what at times felt like an exhibition match, and their careers at United will mostly be looked back on positively by their supporters.
MAN OF THE MATCH - CRISTIANO RONALDO
Ronaldo’s nine goals in his last 11 games and 18 goals in the league this campaign for an underperforming United side will surely see him stay at the club next season and be central to Erik ten Hag’s plans.
If Ten Hag is to successfully blend youth with experience at United then building around someone who continues to be one of the greatest footballers in the world may not be such a bad idea. Even if newly-appointed Austria national team boss Ralf Rangnick has not thought so at times this season.
Manchester United: De Gea (6), Lindelof (6), Varane (6), Dalot (7), Telles (5), McTominay (5), Matic (6), Mata (6), Fernandes (7), Ronaldo (8), Elanga (7)
Subs: Fred (5), Jones (N/A), Cavani (N/A)
Brentford: Raya (6), Roerslev (5), Jansson (5), Bech Sorensen (5), Henry (5), Ajer (5), Janelt (5), Norgaard (5), Eriksen (7), Mbeumo (6), Toney (6)
Subs: Dasilva (6), Jensen (N/A), Wissa (N/A)
9' - GOAL!! FERNANDES FIRES MAN UTD IN FRONT! Dalot's ball over the top down the right flank finds Elanga and he cuts it back for Fernandes inside the box who puts it away from close range. VAR checks to see if Elanga is offside but the goal stands. United lead!
44' - GOAL? HAS RONALDO PUT UNITED 2-0 UP? It's goal number 18 for Ronaldo this season! United have looked slick in attack tonight and the goal comes from a rapid counter-attack. Fernandes slips a ball through to Mata on the left and he lays it on a plate for Ronaldo to tuck it away. But was Ronaldo offside? VAR CHECK... NO GOAL! Was Ronaldo offside when the ball was played to him? The answer is yes!
61' - GOAL! RONALDO SCORES FROM THE SPOT! He smashes his penalty into the bottom corner and United extend their lead. Nine of United's last 11 goals in the Premier League have been scored by Ronaldo and it's his 18th in the league this season.
72' - GOAL! VARANE SCORES HIS FIRST UTD GOAL! A corner swung into the box is met by Varane near the penalty box. He leans back, gets a volley away and it deflects off Jansson into the net! It's Varane's first goal in a United shirt.
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