Marcus Rashford fired Manchester United to their first Premier League win in six weeks as Erik ten Hag’s men overcame Brentford 1-0 to move back into the top four.
February’s Carabao Cup triumph underlined the progress overseen by the Dutchman this season, but the Red Devils’ failure to win any of their three league matches since Wembley has raised eyebrows.
Sunday’s meek defeat at Newcastle led Ten Hag to once again publicly question his players’ hunger, but United showed character three days later to edge out surprise package Brentford at Old Trafford.
United did drop off after the break as Brentford bounced back from a subdued first-half display, but Thomas Frank’s men were unable to eke out an equaliser on Wednesday.
David De Gea spread himself to block substitute Kevin Schade’s effort as United gained a measure of revenge for August’s 4-0 loss to the Bees in Ten Hag’s second match in charge.
That defeat was among a handful of alarming performances that have seen the side return to what the former Ajax boss calls “old habits”.
It meant Wout Weghorst dropped to the bench for the first time since joining on loan in January, with United having to remain patient as the Bees’ five-man backline sat deep and frustrated.
A lack of movement and creativity meant the Red Devils offered little in response until showing flickers of life midway through the opening period.
Scott McTominay fizzed narrowly over after one-footed Antony caught Brentford off guard by cutting back with his weaker right, only to return to his favoured foot soon after and strike wide.
Antony collected a cleared corner and lifted the ball back into the box, with Sabitzer smartly cushioning a header into the path of Rashford to fire home from six yards.
That snapshot lit up a drab game played in miserable conditions at Old Trafford, where Luke Shaw’s 250th United appearance lasted just 37 minutes. Tyrell Malacia replaced the injured left-back.
Antony volleyed wide shortly after Shaw’s exit and had two further shots before the break, with Rashford having two himself as he attempted to extend United’s lead.
Jadon Sancho and Antony had efforts before Sabitzer was denied as United again pushed for a second, but Brentford were growing in confidence.
Substitute Shandon Baptiste had a shot deflected wide and De Gea bravely stood his ground to block an attempt by fellow introduction Schade. The United goalkeeper requited treatment after the collision.
Ten Hag and Frank both made changes in a bid to change the dynamic of this game, with an initial uptick in Brentford’s threat petering out as the hosts held firm.
There was a collective groan when sub Fred fired into the Stretford End but Brentford offered little in response, with Aaron Hickey missing from distance and Ivan Toney chipping over for Brentford in stoppage time.