For Manchester United to overcome FC Copenhagen in the Champions League, they needed to rely on two unexpected heroes: defender Harry Maguire and goalkeeper André Onana.
The 1-0 victory marked United’s first triumph in the tournament this year, and it occurred on a night the team honored the late Sir Bobby Charlton, a renowned former captain.
Charlton, 86, departed from this life on Saturday. Before Tuesday’s match, Old Trafford observed a minute of silence. Manager Erik ten Hag was one of the people who helped lay a wreath in honor of one of the team’s all-time greats.
United had a challenging first half from the outset as Diogo Gonçalves struck the post and Mohamed Elyounoussi’s subsequent shot was deflected wide in the first five minutes of play.
Early in the second half, Onana made a good save to deny Lukas Lerager’s effort. After that, United began to assault the Copenhagen goal, first when Rasmus Højlund surged into the box and then when Kamil Grabara made a diving stop to deny Christian Eriksen.
However, a few minutes later, United seized the lead thanks to a header from Eriksen’s superb cross into Grabara’s net by Maguire, a player whose play has frequently been criticized by supporters.
For United and Maguire, who lost his captaincy during the summer and seemed to have lost favor with ten Hag, it would turn out to be a pivotal goal.
Scott McTominay and Garnacho both missed opportunities to seal the win in the first half of the match, and United nearly lost because McTominay’s high boot at Elyounoussi resulted in a penalty kick for Copenhagen.
In stoppage time, Jordan Larsson went up to take the penalty kick and force a draw, but Onana made an incredible save to keep the visitors at bay, swatting the shot away with a powerful right arm.
Since joining United this season, the Cameroonian international has committed many mistakes, one of which occurred during a Champions League loss to Bayern Munich last month. The stop on the penalty kick somewhat made up for those errors, and Onana was promptly surrounded by his teammates for his valiant efforts.
“We needed to win, so it was a close call, but I’m very happy,” ten Hag said to reporters following the game.
“We put up a lot of effort to win the match. After a subpar first half, the team managed to score a goal and then give up an easy penalty. It was crucial since we had to win today.
Onana responded, “I’m just doing my job, being calm, not under pressure and making myself big, waiting as long as possible and making the save,” when asked about his penalty save.
Maguire scored the game-winning goal, and he received even more praise from him, stating, “He was the hero tonight and I am very happy for him.” He gave another excellent performance, but if we keep up this way, we will undoubtedly get stronger.
With the significant victory, United moves up to third place in its Champions League group, one point behind Bayern and six behind Galatasaray, which overcame the Turkish team 3-1 in the other Group A match on Tuesday.
If United defeats rival Manchester City at home on Sunday, one would think that the team’s difficult start to the season would be well on its way to recovery.