Manchester United faced the looming threat of a group-stage exit from the Champions League following a distressing 4-3 loss against FC Copenhagen.
The team initially held the lead twice at the Parken Stadion but succumbed to two late goals, leaving Erik ten Hag’s squad on the verge of a humiliating defeat.
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Early on, the Red Devils seemed to dominate, courtesy of Rasmus Hojlund’s two goals, expanding his Champions League season tally to five goals.
However, the momentum shifted after a VAR check resulted in a red card for Marcus Rashford, altering the course of the game. Copenhagen managed to level the score before halftime, courtesy of goals from Mohamed Elyounoussi and Diogo Goncalves from a penalty.
Bruno Fernandes then salvaged United’s lead with a penalty at the 69-minute mark. Nevertheless, United failed to counter two goals from Lukas Lerager and 17-year-old Roony Bardghji in the final 10 minutes.
Despite another disappointing outcome, the blame cannot be solely placed on Erik ten Hag. The team executed the game plan effectively until Rashford’s red card drastically altered the game’s dynamics.
United exhibited solidity in defense, midfield dynamism, and sharp attacking prowess, all amidst an electric atmosphere at the Parken Stadion.
While numerous performances this season have been subpar, this particular defeat could be attributed to unfortunate circumstances.
The red card and subsequent penalty might have felt unjust for United, but the team should have possessed enough quality to maintain a two-goal lead until halftime.
This pattern has been recurring under Ten Hag, ever since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson’s leadership traits from the dressing room.
When pressured, United tends to falter, as evident in the dramatic 15-minute setback in Copenhagen.
Just as Ten Hag’s team seemed to recover through Bruno Fernandes’ second-half penalty, they suffered another collapse with two late goals.
Hojlund has displayed exceptional talent on the grand stage for United, boasting five Champions League goals in four games this season. His stellar performance in the first half gave United a comfortable lead, but defensive lapses proved costly, reminiscent of the 3-2 defeat against Galatasaray.
Following Lukas Lerager’s goal to equalize at 3-3 in the 83rd minute, Hojlund’s frustration surfaced as he reprimanded Diogo Dalot for losing his mark.
Despite United’s spirited display under challenging circumstances in Copenhagen, they faced their ninth defeat in 17 games this season.
Ten Hag’s team languishes at the bottom of Group A with only three points from four games, trailing behind Galatasaray and Copenhagen by one point, and nine points adrift from leaders Bayern Munich, who have secured a spot in the last 16.
This leaves United in a position where they must triumph against Galatasaray in Istanbul to retain any hope of advancing. Subsequently, they face the formidable task of hosting Bayern at Old Trafford, while relying on the outcome of the Galatasaray vs. Copenhagen match.
At best, it appears increasingly likely that the renowned club will descend into the Europa League.