Manchester United squeezed past a resilient Kobenhavn side in the Champions League on Tuesday night, winning 1-0 thanks to a Harry Maguire header in the second half and a desperately late Andre Onana penalty save.
There were emotional scenes prior to kick-off as tributes were paid to Sir Bobby Charlton after he passed away last Saturday. Erik ten Hag laid a wreath on the centre circle as the Old Trafford crowd stood to applaud and honour a club legend who dedicated his life to Man Utd.
On the pitch, it was an uninspiring first half in Manchester. Kobenhavn produced the best openings, testing Onana from a distance and striking the post with a volley – all within the opening five minutes. It was evident that Man Utd were feeling the nerves, failing to test the Danish side’s backline meaningfully as the opening 45 minutes finished goalless.
Man Utd improved in the second half, taking the lead through Harry Maguire’s powerful header after Christian Eriksen’s cross. But United needed the much-maligned Onana to make a 97th-minute penalty save to give the hosts a hard-fought victory in an astounding finish.
How the game unfolded
Kobenhavn have already proved tricky opponents in the Champions League this season and they made a bright start at Old Trafford. Elias Achouri’s long-range effort was pushed wide for a corner by Andre Onana before Diogo Goncalves’ cushioned volley struck the base of the Cameroonian’s post several minutes later.
Man Utd started to control proceedings after a shaky opening 15 minutes, with speculative efforts from Rasmus Hojlund, formerly of Kobenhavn, and Marcus Rashford not doing enough to cause ex-Liverpool goalkeeper Kamil Grabara any problems.
A first half lacking in quality petered out with so few mentionable moments that Italian referee Marco Guida blew for half-time 15 seconds early.
Substitute Alejandro Garnacho was left kicking himself shortly after the hour mark, racing through one-on-one with Grabara after a quick United break. However, a heavy touch allowed the Kobenhavn goalkeeper to reclaim possession as another half-chance for Man Utd was sniffed out.
However, the young Argentine was let off the hook shortly after, with Harry Maguire powering home a header from Eriksen’s delightful cross with 72 minutes played to give the hosts the lead. Few could begrudge the centre-back such a moment given the criticism he has faced in the last year, building on a player-of-the-match performance against Sheffield United at the weekend with aplomb.
The game should have been wrapped up just five minutes later when Garnacho was sent through on goal by McTominay, but Grabara produced a great close-range stop. The Scottish midfielder then sent his rebound high and wide.
It looked as if Man Utd were going to see the game out with no problems, but a 94th-minute corner wreaked havoc in the Red Devils’ penalty area. The ball bounced around before McTominay’s high boot caught a Kobenhavn head, with the referee awarding the visitors a spot kick.
However, Onana produced a fine stop from Jordan Larsson, son of former United striker Henrik, from the spot to give United the victory and earn the Red Devils a vital three points in the Champions League.
Man Utd player ratings vs Kobenhavn (4-2-3-1)
GK: Andre Onana – 8/10 – Questionable distribution again, but made some strong saves to deny Kobenhavn and keep Man Utd in the game, most obviously the last-minute penalty.
RB: Diogo Dalot – 5/10 – Made some positive early runs down the right flank, but struggled to deal with the electric Achouri, especially in the first half. A lot of Kobenhavn’s chances came down his side.
CB: Raphael Varane – 6/10 – A little ponderous in possession early on and didn’t enjoy facing Viktor Claesson when he dropped into deeper central areas. Clearly, it did not fully match sharp yet, but did produce a fine intervention late on.
CB: Harry Maguire – 7/10 – Man Utd were far from defensively sound, but Maguire was the best of the backline. When the Red Devils needed him, he popped up with a crucial goal too. Overall, it’s been a good few days for the defender.
LB: Sergio Reguilon – 5/10 – A welcome return to the starting lineup after United’s left-back woes, but it was clear the Spaniard was a yard short after five games out. Wasteful in possession and not too keen on making forward runs down the left.
CM: Sofyan Amrabat – 4/10 – Surrendered possession on several occasions in the first half and looked lost in the centre of the pitch. Looked for Christian Eriksen at half-time.
CM: Scott McTominay – 6/10 – Positive in attacking areas and one of the few to run beyond Hojlund on occasion, making some good late runs into the box. They gave away a last-minute penalty but were let off the hook by Onana.
RM: Antony – 5/10 – Looked tidy in possession, but offered next to nothing in the final third. Man Utd need their £85m winger to be doing more on a big Champions League night, that’s for sure.
AM: Bruno Fernandes – 7/10 – Anonymous in the first half, but Eriksen’s arrival saw him spark into life. Finished the game strongly and looked closer to his creative best.
LM: Marcus Rashford – 5/10 – So, so low on confidence. Snatched at several good opportunities and was generally absent. Not a great performance despite the result.
ST: Rasmus Hojlund – 7/10 – Man Utd’s brightest spark in attack yet again and one of the few players with any invention in the final third. Held the ball up well and wasn’t given much service.
SUB: Christian Eriksen (46′ for Amrabat) – 8/10 – Absolutely changed the game at half-time, coming on for Amrabat. Provided the assist for Maguire’s goal and made the attacking line tick with his playmaking.
SUB: Alejandro Garnacho (63′ for Antony) – 7/10
SUB: Victor Lindelof (63′ for Reguilon) – 6/10
SUB: Anthony Martial (86′ for Hojlund) – N/A
Subs not used: Altay Bayindir (GK), Tom Heaton (GK), Jonny Evans, Hannibal, Mason Mount, Facundo Pellestri.
Erik ten Hag – 7/10 – A lifeless first half as his Man Utd side struggled to create anything in the final third. However, the Dutchman introduced Eriksen at half-time, a substitution that completely changed the game.