On a night that Manchester United desperately needed to win, in part due to their poor standing in Group A of the Champions League and, in part to honour the passing of United legend Sir Bobby Charlton, it fell to two of their most maligned characters to ensure victory at Old Trafford.
A tepid first half left the packed house inside the stadium clamouring for a bit of verve and excitement from the hosts, who seemed low on confidence and motivation. Chances were few and far between with Copenhagen coming the closest to scoring as Diogo Goncalves struck the woodwork early on.
The introduction of Christian Eriksen provided a new dimension to United’s play and the Dane was the supplier for the only goal of the match. A corner was knocked out to him and he whipped a cross perfectly onto the head of Harry Maguire. The defender, selected for tonight’s game after a sterling performance at the weekend, repaid Erik ten Hag’s faith with a powerful header into the deck, the ball bouncing over Kamil Grabara to send United in front.
That goal should have been enough to clinch victory but a late, late foul from Scott McTominay gifted Copenhagen the chance to equalise. They were awarded a penalty, Jordan Larsson stepped up, but Andre Onana made the save, leaping to his left and touching the ball wide of the post. Old Trafford roared in celebration, as did Onana, who made up for his previous mistakes in this competition with a save that could yet keep United in the Champions League.
"I’m just doing my job, the most important thing is to win against a tough team,” Onana said after his match-winning save. "I am happy for the victory, we did a good game and a big goal from Harry.
"We are Manchester United. We are a big club, big players. It’s just a matter of time, now we have to continue like this. I have no doubt we will make it."
Maguire spoke about how United were inspired to win as a tribute to Sir Bobby.
“It was one of those nights where it was meant to be,” said Maguire. “We were meant to win the game, a magnificent save and a win dedicated to Sir Bobby and his family.
"It has been a tough week for us away at Sheffield United and losing someone like Sir Bobby, it affects the cub and the dressing room. We’re really proud that we could get the win for him tonight."
The former United captain added that there were still areas of improvement for the team but getting three points on the board was the most important job.
He added: “We have got to be more clinical, we had numerous counter-attacks and we didn’t give them a chance in the second-half.
"The first-half was really poor, it was not perfect but an important win. This man [Onana] stepped up and it was a massive save."
The victory sees United move off the bottom of Group A as they jumped above Copenhagen in the table. With Bayern Munich also defeating Galatasary, the Red Devils are now just one point behind the Turkish side and have a strong chance of reaching the knockouts.
Maguire says that after a difficult year, he is looking forward to helping the team get back to where they belong and is targeting a place in the Champions League last-16.
"It is amazing,” he replied when asked how it feels to have the fans chanting his name. “When you are not on your game it gets picked up, but I am really proud and pleased how I have acted over this six to 12 months.
"I have been given an opportunity and I want to help the team and get the club back to where it should be."
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