Unexpected heroes Maguire and Onana helped Manchester United defeat Copenhagen.

Unexpected heroes Maguire and Onana helped Manchester United defeat Copenhagen.
At the Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, North West England, on October 24, 2023, during the UEFA Champions League Group A football match between Manchester United and FC Copenhagen, Scottish midfielder #39 Scott McTominay fouls FC Copenhagen's Norwegian midfielder #10 Mohamed Elyounoussi as they battle for the ball. (Image by AFP/Paul ELLIS)

On the evening of Bobby Charlton's memorial service at Old Trafford, Manchester United opened their Champions League campaign with a 1-0 victory over FC Copenhagen, with Andre Onana and Harry Maguire emerging as the unlikely heroes.

18 minutes from the end, the much-maligned center back Maguire headed in the game's sole goal before Jordan Larsson's penalty attempt was saved by Onana with the game's final kick.

The English powerhouses are back in the running for the last 16 after losing their first two Champions League group matches for the first time ever. This is because they secured a much-needed victory.

Charlton, one of United's all-time best players, passed away on Saturday at the age of 86.

Before the game began, United manager Erik ten Hag paid a heartfelt homage to the 1966 World Cup winner by laying a wreath in the center circle and holding a minute of silence.

After a challenging start to the season, Ten Hag challenged his team to draw inspiration from Charlton's past.

But another dull first half display would have demoralized the Dutchman.

After only five minutes, the defending champions of Denmark were only a few feet from taking the lead.

Diogo Goncalves turned Maguire's cross onto the post after Mohamed Elyounoussi caught him in possession. Maguire was a forward for Southampton before.

Before kickoff, the mood at Old Trafford was intensely emotive, but it soon gave way to cries of displeasure as the home team struggled to muster any meaningful points before halftime.

In retaliation, Ten Hag pitted his fellow Danes, Christian Eriksen, against one another.

But United didn't wake up from their slumber until Copenhagen had two more excellent opportunities to take a shocking lead.

Onana establishes his value

In United's losses against Bayern Munich and Galatasaray in the Champions League, Onana committed major mistakes.

However, the player who advanced Inter Milan to the championship game the previous season demonstrated why United spent a whooping £47 million on him in July.

Lukas Lerager attempted to find the top corner of the net, but Onana made the game's first and most important save.

Shortly after, Elias Achouri, who was unmarked at the far post, sent a shot that went over.

The major hope for the Danish national team and Eriksen's successor, Rasmus Hojlund, did not perform well against his previous club.

The most significant contribution from Hojlund was setting Eriksen up for a strong low drive that former Liverpool goalkeeper Kamil Grabara skillfully parried.

The troubles United have had thus far this season have been greatly impacted by Marcus Rashford's loss of form.

The England international, who scored 30 goals the previous season, has only scored once so far this year and squandered a fantastic opportunity to open the score when facing Grabara one-on-one with a heavy touch.

Alejandro Garnacho, the substitute, followed suit, needing only to defeat Grabara.

Rather, Maguire, the center back, saved his attackers to make sure Charlton's final game was at least a victory.

During Ten Hag's first season in command, the England international had dropped far down the hierarchy, but he is now making the most of a string of defensive injuries that have allowed him to return to the team.

Sixteen minutes from time, Maguire just managed to remain onside in order to head home Eriksen's cross with a bullet.

Given that Garnacho and Scott McTominay missed excellent opportunities to double the lead, United ought to have added another.

And when McTominay was called for a high foot on Elyounoussi well into stoppage time, they were almost forced to pay.

Son of former United striker Henrik Larsson, Larsson stepped forward, but Onana diverted his strong effort behind him, igniting loud celebrations.

With the win, United moves up to third place in Group A, one point ahead of Galatasaray. They also surpass Copenhagen.

After defeating Galatasaray 3-1 to make it three wins from three games, Bayern is already getting close to qualifying.

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