Manchester United turned on the style in the second half, scoring three goals to comfortably see off Brentford 3-1 and secure their first Premier League win of 2022.
Ralf Rangnick's side struggled to get to grips with Brentford's energy in the first half, and only two big saves from David De Gea kept the scores level at the break.
Mathias Jensen was released through on goal not once but twice as United's fragile defence was exposed but the Dane was denied by the foot of De Gea on both occasions - missed opportunities they would be made to rue.
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United started the second half with more purpose and Cristiano Ronaldo - who had previously cut an isolated figure - looped a header onto the crossbar.
The deadlock was broken 10 minutes after the restart when Fred picked out Anthony Elanga with a beautiful cross, and the 19-year-old finished superbly with a cushioned header for his first goal of the season.
In contrast to their opponents, United proved clinical in front of goal and their advantage was doubled seven minutes later when Bruno Fernandes laid on Mason Greenwood for a simple tap-in.
Ronaldo was visibly unhappy to be subbed with under 20 minutes remaining as Rangnick switched to a back three, but his decision was justified as Marcus Rashford marked his cameo with a goal to complete the job, lashing a shot into the roof of the net for his first goal since October.
United's night ended on a sour note, however, as moments after Scott McTominay was forced off with a back injury, Ivan Toney bundled home to give Brentford a late consolation.
Despite the victory, United remain seventh in the table, but they closed the gap on fourth-place West Ham to just two points having played a game fewer. Having now suffered three straight defeats, Brentford are 14th but their early season form has allowed them a 10-point cushion over the teams in the bottom three.
TALKING POINT - A tale of two halves as ruthless United punish wasteful Brentford
After a dreadful first half in which United were tormented time and again by Brentford's energy and pace on the counter, they emerged as an entirely different outfit after the break. Whatever Rangnick said at half-time clearly worked as the visitors found renewed purpose, grabbed the game by the scruff of the net and took their chances when they came along.
It wasn't pretty at times in front of a raucous home support, but they weathered the storm and secured their first league win of 2022. Performances so far may not be up to their high standards but since his appointment, Rangnick has managed five wins from eight and is clearly moving the club in the right direction.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Scott McTominay (Manchester United)
The 25-year-old is emerging as one of United's most important players and Rangnick will be praying the back injury that forced him off is not serious. His reading of the game, ability to make interventions and tackles, to drive his team forward and play the right pass... it was all superb.
Brentford: Lossl 4, Jansson 5, Pinnock 5, Sorensen 5, Roerslev 5, Canos 5, Jensen 6, Janelt 5, Norgaard 5, Mbeumo 6, Toney 6.. subs: Henry 5, Wissa 5, Baptiste 5.
Man Utd: De Gea 8, Telles 6, Varane 8, Lindelof 7, Dalot 8, Fred 7, McTominay 9*, Elanga 8, Greenwood 7, Fernandes 7, Ronaldo 6.. subs: Maguire 5, Rashford 7, Matic N/A.
13' - BIG SAVE FROM DE GEA! De Gea comes to the visitors' rescue! United are sloppy in possession once more and Brentford almost take full advantage. Jensen is through with just the goalkeeper to beat, he tries to slot it in at the near post but De Gea makes himself big and denies the forward with his foot.
32' - ANOTHER HUGE SAVE FROM DE GEA! De Gea is almost single-handedly keeping United level! Brentford carve the visitors open with a rapid counter-attack, Jensen - once again - is released, this time by Toney. He opts to side-foot it low but De Gea sticks out a boot to make the save. Toney is there on the follow-up but his shot is deflected wide by Varane.
55' - GOAL! BRENTFORD 0-1 MANCHESTER UNITED (ANTHONY ELANGA): Elanga scores his first Premier League goal of the season to give Manchester United the lead! Fred spots the run of Elanga and picks him out brilliantly with a beautiful cross. The teenager keeps his cool and his cushion header nestles into the back of the net. Brentford may well be made to rue their missed opportunities!
62' - GOAL! BRENTFORD 0-2 MANCHESTER UNITED (MASON GREENWOOD): Greenwood, with his sixth goal of the season, puts daylight between the teams! Ronaldo's brilliant chest-pass allows Fernandes to run through on goal, he selflessly looks up and rolls it to Greenwood who taps into an empty net. Much, much better from Man Utd.
77'- GOAL! BRENTFORD 0-3 MANCHESTER UNITED (MARCUS RASHFORD): That'll do it! Great work from McTominay as he wins the ball back, drives through the middle and picks out Fernandes, who feeds it through to Rashford. From the angle, he lifts his shot into the roof of the net. It's harsh on Brentford but United deserve great credit for their second half performance.
85' - GOAL! BRENTFORD 1-3 MANCHESTER UNITED (IVAN TONEY): De Gea's clean sheet is gone! There is pinball from a long throw-in, United fail to clear and Toney bundles it over the line for his sixth goal of the season. Game on? Surely not!
- Manchester United have won their 300th Premier League away game, the first team to reach the milestone in the competition.
- Fred has been involved in four goals in his last seven Premier League games for Manchester United (one goal, three assists), as many as he had in his first 86 appearances in the competition (three goals, one assist).
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