THE NOTEBOOK: United honour Sir Bobby Charlton on an emotional night

THE NOTEBOOK: Man United honour Sir Bobby Charlton on an emotional night at Old Trafford, as Harry Maguire and Andre Onana turn from villains to heroes with winning goal and crucial penalty save

  • Man United played their first home game since the death of Sir Bobby Charlton
  • Old Traford witnessed a tense Champions League night that ended in drama
  • Much-maligned Harry Maguire and Andre Onana were the heroes for Red Devils 

Goalscorer Harry Maguire’s gradual rehabilitation gathered further pace when Erik ten Hag partnered him with Raphael Varane as United’s starting centre-half pairing for only the second time since the Dutchman arrived at Old Trafford.

Maguire got the nod over Victor Lindelof having previously fallen so far down ten Hag’s pecking order, even left-back Luke Shaw was shifted into the middle ahead of the £80million man. 

On the only other previous occasion Maguire and Varane were allowed to team up, United swept aside Crystal Palace 3-0 in the EFL Cup in September.

Maguire, who played on the left-hand side, capped his night by heading the opening goal. 

His first for 20 months and first at Old Trafford since October 2021, also in the Champions League against Atalanta.

Man United boss Erik ten Hag carried a wreath onto the pitch ahead of kick off on Tuesday 

Blue mask of distraction 

Masked Copenhagen goalkeeper Kamil Grabara was powerless to stop Harry Maguire’s bullet header giving United the lead but it was still an improvement on his last visit to Manchester when Copenhagen were beaten 5-0 by City.

Polish Grabara has previous experience of English football having played on loan at Huddersfield from Liverpool before Jurgen Klopp sold him to Copenhagen. For a long while, it looked as if his blue face protection had special powers to unsettle United’s forwards.

Both Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho took heavy touches as they raced clear on goal allowing the ball to roll harmlessly into the ‘keeper’s arms

Grabara has experience of English football having played at Huddersfield and Liverpool

Two teams, three Hojlunds 

Emil Hojlund, younger brother of Erik ten Hag’s centre-forward Rasmus, was part of the Copenhagen under-19s team that surprisingly defeated United 1-0 in the UEFA Youth League earlier on Tuesday. They are a clearly a talented family – Emil’s 18-year-old twin Oscar was also on the bench for his Danish side in the senior Champions League tie at Old Trafford. One consolation for United despite their youngsters losing was the return in that game of their outstanding teenage prospect Kobbie Mainoo following injury.

Emil Hojlund’s 18-year-old twin Oscar was also on the bench for his Danish side at Old Trafford

Reguilon makes an important return  

The return of left-back Sergio Reguilon after missing five games with a hamstring injury allowed United to put square pegs in square holes at last. Erik ten Hag has had to experiment in recent games because of an injury crisis with full-backs Luke Shaw, Tyrell Malacia and Aaron wan-Bissaka all crocked at the same time. United have experimented with Sofyan Amrabat and Victor Lindelof out of position but Reguilon looked more comfortable in his familiar role.

Erik ten Hag has had to experiment in recent games because of an injury crisis at full-back

As stale a first-half as they come 

Referee Marco Guida must have been as bored by the first half inaction as the rest of the crowd deciding to blow the half-time whistle 15 seconds before the allotted time was up.

There were only two shots on target in the opening 45 minutes, one for each side, though Copenhagen also hit the post. Erik ten Hag made his feelings clear, when United re-emerged for the second period substitute Christian Eriksen had replaced the less creative Sofyan Amrabat.

Fortune favoured the brave and it was Eriksen who created the breakthrough goal for Maguire with a brilliant arcing cross onto the defender’s head.

United miss Casemiro’s…goal threat? 

As United struggled in front of goal against the supposed whipping boys of Group A, it was a sobering thought their top scorer this season remains holding midfielder Casemiro with four goals in all competitions. A weak shot from Marcus Rashford was their only effort on target in the first half.

A weak shot from Marcus Rashford was their only effort on target in the first half

There was a lovely touch from the 2,500 travelling FC Copenhagen fans who joined in the chanting of “There’s only one Bobby Charlton” – underlying the global appeal of Manchester United’s greatest player – and unfurling a banner that read Rest in Peace in their own club colours.

 Andre Onana to the rescue

Scott McTominay has received plenty of praise this season but will have watch himself in his own penalty area – last night was the second consecutive spot-kick he’s given away after doing the same at Sheffield United last Saturday. 

Remarkably, his side have won both games anyway, 2-1 at Bramall Lane – and 1-0 last night thanks to Andre Onana’s last-gasp heroics in saving from Jordan Larsson. Larsson, who had only arrived as an 85 minute substitute, is son of former United forward Henrik.

Andre Onana’s last-gasp heroics preserved United’s slender advantage and gave them three much-needed points

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