Marcus Rashford scored the only goal with a brilliant half-volley as Manchester United beat Brentford 1-0 in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Wednesday to climb back into the top four.
The victory was a perfect response following a disappointing 2-0 defeat by Newcastle United on Sunday and lifted the Red Devils to 53 points, three ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur and level with the Magpies in third.
United started brightly, forcing a series of corners and free kicks as Brentford pulled their outfield players behind the ball to try to close down space, and when the breakthrough came in the 27th minute it was from another set-piece.
A Brentford clearance from a corner only made it as far winger Antony on the edge of the box. He lofted it towards the head of Marcel Sabitzer, and Rashford met the Austrian’s bouncing knockdown with a sumptuous half-volley that gave David Raya no chance to register his 28th goal of the season.
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David De Gea almost gave Brentford a lifeline early in the second half when his loose attempt at a clearance cannoned into the onrushing Ivan Toney, but luckily for the United keeper the ball bounced to safety.
De Gea was called into action again in the 67th minute when substitute Kevin Schade collected a pass from Toney and ran at him, but the keeper stood firm to deflect the shot.
Manchester United could have sealed the game in the 80th minute as Rashford broke down the left and squared to Fred, but the Brazilian blazed the ball high over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
Brentford poured forward in the closing stages, but the closest they came to scoring was an audacious attempt at a chip from Toney that drifted harmlessly over the bar as the home side held on.
Looking for a top-four finish that will give them a crack at Champions League football next season, Rashford said consistency would be key for United as the Premier League heads into its final phase.
“We are in that period of the season where every game is important and every game counts, so we are pleased to win,” Rashford said.
“The important thing is always to win the next game — everyone is clear that we are not going to play our best every week, but there is never a time to drop our standards and we have to keep trying to push each other every week,” he added.
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