Manchester United’s rocky start to their UEFA Champions League group stage finally picked some pace during their 1-0 win over Copenhagen.
The Red Devils relied on a well-headed goal from Harry Maguire and a superbly saved penalty from Andre Onana in the dying seconds of the game to secure all three points. While United are still behind in terms of points, this win carries a lot of momentum forward for the remainder of the campaign.
1. Harry Maguire’s Form
Few expected Maguire to be a part of the club’s roster when the season began, let alone be seen playing pivotal roles in the side’s recent wins. Yet, the English defender who saw his captaincy stripped from him at the start of this season, is now enjoying splendid form. Be it in assists against Brentford or goals like this one, Maguire has been all over the place in a positive fashion.
Good news for an injury-stricken backline and who knows whether this is part of a larger redemption for the header-master in the heart of United’s defensive unit.
2. Andre Onana’s Redemption
Onana has been at the receiving end of a bulwark of criticism in recent months. His inability to save even seemingly simple goals has been the cause of much frustration and the pass-friendly keeper has even been blamed for singlehanded defeats. At 27 and given his prior performances, this is really not the standard to be projecting at the Theatre of Dreams.
While the lack of regular clean sheets and obvious mistakes doesn’t paint a favourable picture, Onana redeemed himself quite promptly when he saved what looked to be a party-stopper added-time penalty. The Old Trafford roar is a rousing acceptance for the Cameroonian star.
3. Worrying Performance
Erik ten Hag’s recent performances, especially against so-called smaller sides, have been dreadfully worrying, to say the least. High-press football has become a staple at Old Trafford but the squad seems to lack the physicality for it. Moreover, the energy of his initial days appears to have fizzled out, with the pitch resembling a confused classroom at times.
Further, despite boasting of a reasonably loaded frontline on paper, Ten Hag’s offensive tactics aren’t making optimum use of the total skillset of the attackers. If this is the situation for the likes of Sheffield United and Copenhagen, one does shudder thinking about what outcomes Sunday’s Manchester derby or the second Bayern Munich UCL encounter could have in store.