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Brentford vs Manchester United preview: Thomas Frank unfazed by league table as deciding phase in season beckons

At this stage of the season last year, Thomas Frank’s Brentford were enjoying their place inside the top 10 of the Premier League. This year, however, as they go into the last nine games of the season, they sit six spots lower in 15th place with 26 points, 17 lesser than they had this time last season.

Being in the relegation discussion – with Brentford only five points above safety as things stand – can lead to a constant worry about results, at least more worry than they have been used to since returning to the Premier League three years ago. But Frank’s approach is not too different than usual, despite another huge task ahead in the form of Manchester United and on the back of a 1-2 loss to Burnley.

“There’s one thing I don’t do. I don’t look at the league table,” Frank said in a press conference on Friday ahead of Saturday’s fixture. “There’s no reason to do that. No matter if you are top, bottom, or middle of the league. Because it doesn’t change anything. It just gets you carried away thinking about things.”

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While most of his squad were away representing their countries during the international break, the man in charge took some time off to re-energise ahead of a make-or-break run of games. In what is an 8pm late kick-off at the Gtech stadium on Saturday, Frank will need to lead the burst of energy, but called upon his players and the team’s fans to bring the needed energy as well in what he expects will be a great atmosphere under the lights.

“It (evening home game) has just got the potential to give something more, but we can’t take it for granted. Me, players, fans, we all need to generate the energy and intensity in the game,” Frank said on the same.

The energy will be even more important against a Manchester United side who have momentum on their side.

“It seems they are in a good place. There’s no doubt that their front 3-4 players are performing well,” Frank said of the visitors, with special mention of the likes of Rasmus Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho, Marcus Rashford, Kobbie Mainoo, and playmaker Bruno Fernandes.

“It’s another good and tough challenge, but it’s another good and tough challenge no matter who you face in the Premier League. But we play at home, under the floodlights at the Gtech, so we and the fans need to be up for it and ready.”

United will go into the game on a high after their thrilling 4-3 win against arch-rivals Liverpool in the FA Cup quarter-finals just before the international break, building on from a 2-0 league win against Everton. Quite contrastingly, Brentford are on a six-game winless run after a 2-0 victory away to Wolves in early February.

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One of the areas where both teams have had similarities is injuries. Frank shed light on potential returnees, with both Kevin Schade (thigh injury) and Ethan Pinnock (ankle injury) “progressing well,” but still not ready to play. Meanwhile, Bryan Mbeumo, who came off the bench against Burnley after a three-month layoff, is also showing great improvement. Frank confirmed there will be no surprise returns to the squad to face Manchester United.

Among the players who are available, Ivan Toney’s importance in this Brentford set-up cannot be overstated. The towering forward, who made his first international start on Tuesday against Belgium, also became the first Brentford men’s player to score for England. Frank was all praise of Toney’s performance against Belgium and agreed that a goal in midweek will add to his confidence.

“No doubt. Strikers need goals to keep their confidence. But the guy is anyway a rare breed where he always seems to have a fantastic amount of confidence in him.”

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Brentford have starkly contrasting memories of their last two games against Manchester United in the league. While Frank referred to the memorable 4-0 home win last season as a “special day” in his Brentford career, he lamented a “horror show” in stoppage time at Old Trafford earlier this season, where his team saw a very likely 1-0 win turn into defeat in no time, courtesy of two stoppage time goals from Scott McTominay.

“I watched it back. The first 90 minutes was really good, it was more the last seven (minutes) which was a horror show. It was painful to watch it back. Although it was very promising to watch the first 90 minutes. You learn from those situations,” the Dane expressed.

Frank has in the past expressed the importance of focusing on the process over results. While wins are a need of the hour for Brentford right now, he reiterated the focus on strong performances.

“If you ask me if I want to win or I want to perform fantastic, of course I want to win. I just know if I only win and not perform good, only winning and winning sounds good, but I promise you over time it will decline.”

For now, though, his focus is solely on the immediate task at hand. “Hopefully we can perform well over 98 minutes against United and get a win,” he added with a bit of a chuckle.


  • Aayush Majumdar

    Sports journalist from India with over five years of work in the field, Aayush has previously covered ATP events and international cricket series, among other big events. He has a keen interest in cricket, tennis and football, but contributes content across sports. Now living and learning in London, he is co-editor of the Sports Gazette.