In a tense encounter at Old Trafford, Manchester United managed to narrowly defeat FC Copenhagen, rejuvenating their Champions League campaign.
A significant moment transpired as Harry Maguire found the back of the net, marking his third consecutive start under Erik ten Hag. His transformation into the match-winner added another chapter to his ongoing redemption journey at Old Trafford.
Maguire’s stock had plummeted during the summer, with Manchester United even attempting to offload him to West Ham. At the start of the season, he was locked in a battle with Jonny Evans to avoid becoming the fifth-choice center-back. However, at present, he’s relishing an extended run in the team and is clearly one of the in-form players.
The 30-year-old’s performances against Brentford and Sheffield United showcased his solidity. Moreover, at Bramall Lane, he displayed proficiency in possession and an eagerness for defensive challenges. While FC Copenhagen managed to put United on the back foot at times, Maguire’s quick recovery from an early error and his impact at the opposite end of the pitch, exemplified by his crucial goal, kept United’s Champions League hopes alive.
Given Lisandro Martinez’s extended absence, Maguire now merits a place ahead of Lindelof and should be considered Raphael Varane’s long-term partner in defense. This is arguably the best he has played since before the Europa League final in 2021.
Standout Performance from Hojlund
Manchester United’s most cohesive moments against FC Copenhagen frequently featured Rasmus Hojlund. When United signed the Danish talent, they knew he was a raw gem that would require refinement under Ten Hag’s guidance. This meant that there would be occasions when he might need to be rotated out of the team, given his relative inexperience at this level.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t foreseen that, by the end of October, the team would find themselves heavily reliant on him. Nearly all of their coherent play against FC Copenhagen involved Hojlund, whether it was at the forefront of attacks or contributing to their cohesion.
His precise and nimble touches when orchestrating play were commendable, and he consistently found his teammates under pressure. In the first half, he drove a half-volley just over the bar, and while there weren’t numerous opportunities for him, it was evident that FC Copenhagen was most unsettled when the 20-year-old played against his former club.
With Marcus Rashford and Antony both grappling with poor form and goal droughts, Hojlund has rapidly emerged as the attack’s leader. This role, which Rashford might have anticipated after his 30-goal season last year, currently belongs to Hojlund, who appears to be the most menacing member of the trio.
Onana’s Turning Point
Amidst the spotlight on Andre Onana’s distribution during the game, the £47 million goalkeeper delivered a pivotal moment that might just kickstart his career at Manchester United.
In the first half, he appeared somewhat shaky, making an unnecessary save on a shot that was heading far wide within the opening minute. Furthermore, he twice misdirected passes directly into the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand.
However, in the second half, he made a crucial save to deny Lukas Lerager. Then came the moment that will be etched in his memory forever. With a strong right hand, he thwarted Jordan Larsson’s penalty, which happened to be the final kick of the game.
Every Manchester United player joined the celebration with Onana, and the entire bench followed suit, celebrating this monumental save. The 27-year-old goalkeeper relished the moment to the fullest.
While his confidence might have wavered lately, this could serve as the spark that propels his career at Old Trafford.
A Slow Start
If Manchester United aimed to capitalize on the emotions and the atmosphere generated by the tributes to one of their greatest-ever players before the match, they failed miserably. The match’s outset quickly deflated the atmosphere.
Within the first few minutes, Andre Onana had to make a diving save to touch a shot that was clearly going wide. Subsequently, Sofyan Amrabat and Harry Maguire both reacted sluggishly to an FC Copenhagen counter, resulting in Diogo Goncalves hitting the post. United appeared disorganized as they scrambled to clear the danger.
By the 15-minute mark, the visitors had registered five shots and four corners, asserting themselves as the superior team. Although their dominance gradually subsided as United settled into the game, the initial minutes set the tone. Any apprehension the visiting players might have had about playing at Old Trafford had vanished within the first quarter of an hour.
On a night filled with emotions and poignant moments, Manchester United struck the perfect chord. The sight of a wreath placed on Sir Bobby Charlton’s seat in the directors’ box was a touching gesture. The scenes surrounding the Trinity Statue were profoundly moving, bringing tears to the eyes of