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Manchester United sink Brentford with McTominay’s injury-time double

Scott McTominay and Harry Maguire: two unlikely heroes to rescue Manchester United from the nadir of bridging a 44-year gap to the last time England’s record 20-times champions suffered three successive league defeats at Old Trafford.

That was where Erik ten Hag’s desperate side were heading deep in added time, as Brentford led 1-0. Then Alejandro Garnacho twisted and turned along the left and fired the ball in, it ricocheted about and came to McTominay, who lashed home to the relief of all of a United persuasion.

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This was part one of the great comeback. For part two, enter Maguire. Like McTominay, he was for sale in the summer window, before each remained due to there being no buyers for the former captain or the academy-reared midfielder.

A right-to-left diagonal free-kick was punted into the area by Bruno Fernandes and up rose Maguire with a sweetly executed header to McTominay, who nodded in for a winner that sent him, his teammates, Ten Hag and the place ballistic. The Scot had come on in the 88th minute.

McTominay was excited to score in what was known as “Fergie-time” under Sir Alex Ferguson, the garlanded former United manager who retired in May 2013. “I was watching [David] Beckham’s documentary and he [Sir Alex] was always looking at his watch like that,” he said. “It just shows today you can score a last-minute winner.”

Mathias Jensen shoots to put Brentford 1-0 aheadMathias Jensen shoots to put Brentford 1-0 ahead. Photograph: Molly Darlington/Reuters

Until the equaliser Brentford had led through Mathias Jensen’s 26th-minute opener, the result of the kind of calamitous play that has plagued United’s campaign. Near the centre circle, the sloppy Casemiro gave the ball away to Bryan Mbuemo. Brentford skipped downfield, Victor Lindelöf failed to clear, Casemiro still slumbered and when Yoane Wissa found Jensen his shot went under the hapless André Onana’s right hand.

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After McTominay’s 97th-minute goal, Andrew Madley, the referee, blew for time almost instantly and the midfielder’s expression was an adrenaline-flushed picture of bliss – and disbelief, because while United never gave up they had been so disjointed that the afternoon seemed certain to close in more pain.

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Trailing at 92min 46sec, this was the latest United had been behind in a Premier League game they have gone on to win, but serious issues remain for Ten Hag. Onana, the new No 1, is proving a liability, in midfield Casemiro seems to have aged a decade from last season and further forward Mason Mount and Marcus Rashford are phantoms floating about unable to affect fortunes.

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Ten Hag’s management, too, is buckling. After more than a year in charge, where is the high press or the brand of progressive football? The most positive the Dutchman can be at the moment is when he points to the mentality that can pull a match such as this from the fire, as he did afterwards.

Ten Hag had appeared out of luck, too, when having to select Maguire, whom he discarded as captain, alongside Jonny Evans, whose first spell at the club began when signing professional forms for Ferguson in July 2006. When Raphaël Varane went down with a minor problem the manager had to shift Victor Lindelöf to left-back to accommodate the Maguire-Evans defensive axis, the latter having enjoyed a last start in home colours in this stadium in spring 2015, under Louis van Gaal, when Sunderland were beaten 2-0.

When Christian Eriksen jogged on for the second half for Casemiro the hope was that the Dane could transform the contest but it was the two later substitutes, Garnacho and McTominay (especially), who did the business.

McTominay said: “That might be one of my favourite moments on a football pitch. Two goals at the death was incredible, but I am just happy to be able to contribute and show people that I can do it.

“It’s hard to put into words because I’ve been at Man United since I was five years old, for me this club means everything.”

Old Trafford had been a cauldron when he was sent on. “It was very loud, the fans were roaring us on so I couldn’t hear fully [Ten Hag]. He probably said something like: ‘Go on and score,’ which is what I did.”