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Elanga excites as Ronaldo rages on Man Utd's night of mixed emotions at Brentford

7:05 AM GMT+8 20/01/2022
Anthony Elanga Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United Brentford Premier League 2021-22 GFX
The Swedish teenager was understandably ecstatic after opening the scoring in a 3-1 victory but his Portuguese colleague was upset by being subbed

Brentford 1-3 Manchester United: Match Statistics

It was another of those Manchester United performances where they needed a spark to bring them to life. 

Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood were all on the pitch but, at Brentford on Wednesday night, a new hero emerged to break the deadlock after what had been an abysmal first 45 minutes for Ralf Rangnick’s side: Anthony Elanga. 

The teenager caught Rangnick's eye in the German's very first training session at the club six weeks ago and, based on his performances in United's last two Premier League games, Elanga deserves to keep his starting spot. 

He has brought that exciting attacking drive that has been lacking from some of United’s forward play recently.

Long balls over the top in the first half were not working at all for Rangnick’s side. They needed a moment of magic, something to give them a foothold in the game. 

And, 10 minutes into the second half, a fantastic ball by Fred was controlled perfectly by Elanga on the stretch, and then headed over Jonas Lossl into the Brentford net.

The Swede celebrated wildly with the away following. Some of them may not have been aware of his talents beforehand, but they certainly are now. 

After a terrible first half in which United were beaten to every second ball, conceded possession easily, looked defensively fragile, struggled with creativity and had David de Gea to thank for still being in it at the break, it was a goal that gave them confidence and changed the entire tone of the evening.  

While this was a joyous night for Elanga, though, it certainly wasn't for Ronaldo.

After United had gone 2-0 up thanks to Mason Greenwood, Rangnick decided to switch to a back three, so he brought Harry Maguire on in Ronaldo's place.

The Portugal international showed his disdain for the decision by throwing his coat on the floor and asked those on the bench why he had been the one to make way for a central defender. 

Rangnick did not even celebrate when another sub, Marcus Rashford, bagged United’s third as he was too busy trying to explain his rationale to Ronaldo, who was furiously chattering away on the steps of the Brentford bench. 

Still, while some will criticise the forward's reaction, that desire to play every single minute of every single game at 36 years of age is something that younger players like Elanga will admire.

For now, of course, the Sweden international will just be happy with whatever game time comes his way, particularly with such competition for places at United. 

Anthony Martial was back on the bench after his disagreement with Rangnick had been "resolved" but there is no denying that the Frenchman's falling-out with the interim boss has propelled Elanga up the pecking order.

It has given him the opportunity that he has been desperately trying to carve out for himself while playing for the Under-23s.

The attacker is regularly the stand-out performer for Neil Wood’s side and watching his friends Rashford and Greenwood make their mark in the first team convinced Elanga that he could break into the senior squad too with the right attitude. 

"I want to continue to work hard and get more goals,” he told BT Sport at full time. “I appreciate the boss so much.

"You can see the intensity we put in in training and if you put in the work in training, you get the results you deserve."

At full time, he sought out fellow Swede Pontus Jansson to ask for his shirt, while he gave his own to a lucky away-dayer.

As he walked back inside shirtless in the freezing cold, his manager was there to greet him with a pat on the back. 

Ronaldo, meanwhile, had headed down the tunnel as soon as the whistle was blown, making it night of contrasting emotions for two United forwards.