Manchester United beat Copenhagen thanks to unlikely heroes Maguire, Onana
MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP)— Andre Onana and Harry Maguire were the unlikely heroes as Manchester United kickstarted their Champions League campaign by beating FC Copenhagen 1-0 on the night Bobby Charlton was remembered at Old Trafford.
Much-maligned centre-back Maguire headed in the only goal 18 minutes from time before Onana saved Jordan Larsson’s penalty with the last kick of the game.
The English giants had lost their opening two Champions League group games for the first time in the club’s history, but are back in contention for the last 16 thanks to a much-needed win.
One of United’s greatest ever players, Charlton died on Saturday at the age of 86.
A moving tribute was paid to the 1966 World Cup winner before kick-off as United boss Erik ten Hag laid a wreath in the centre-circle before a minute’s silence was observed.
Ten Hag urged his players to be inspired by Charlton’s legacy after a difficult start to the season.
But the Dutchman would have been disheartened by another insipid first-half performance.
The Danish champions were inches away from going in front after just five minutes.
Maguire was caught in possession by Mohamed Elyounoussi and the former Southampton forward’s cross was turned onto the post by Diogo Goncalves.
The emotional atmosphere around Old Trafford prior to kick-off quickly turned to groans of frustration at the home side laboured to create anything of note before the break.
Ten Hag responded by introducing Danish international Christian Eriksen against his countrymen.
However, it was not until two more big chances for Copenhagen to take a shock lead that United awoke from their slumber.
Onana made high-profile errors in both United’s Champions League defeats to Bayern Munich and Galatasaray.
But the man who helped Inter Milan reach the final of last season’s competition showed why United splashed out £47 million on him in July.
Onana’a first crucial save of the game prevented Lukas Lerager’s shot finding the top corner.
Moments later Elias Achouri blasted a volley over when unmarked at the far post.
Rasmus Hojlund is Eriksen’s heir as the great hope of the Danish international side, but he failed to shine against his former club.
Hojlund’s most telling contribution came in teeing up Eriksen for a powerful low drive that former Liverpool goalkeeper Kamil Grabara did brilliantly to turn behind.
Marcus Rashford’s loss of form has contributed hugely to United’s struggles so far this season.
The England international, who scored 30 goals last season, has still netted only once this campaign and wasted a glorious chance to open the scoring with a heavy touch when one-on-one with Grabara.
Substitute Alejandro Garnacho then did exactly the same with just Grabara to beat.
Instead centre-back Maguire bailed out his forwards to at least ensure Charlton’s farewell was marked with a victory.
The England international had fallen way down the pecking order during Ten Hag’s first season in charge, but is making the most of a series of defensive injuries that have brought him back into the fold.
Maguire just stayed onside to meet Eriksen’s cross with a bullet header 18 minutes from time.
United should have added a second as Garnacho and Scott McTominay passed up big chances to double the lead.
And they were nearly made to pay when McTominay was penalised for a high foot on Elyounoussi deep into stoppage time.
Larsson, son of former United striker Henrik Larsson, stepped forward but his powerful effort was turned behind by Onana to spark wild scenes of celebration.
Victory takes United above Copenhagen into third in Group A and within one point of Galatasaray.
Bayern are already closing in on qualification after a 3-1 win over Galatasaray made it three wins from three games for the German giants.