Manchester United played their best 40 minutes of football this season. Rasmus Højlund scored his fourth and fifth goals of the Champions League for the Red Devils and looked to be coasting to victory until Marcus Rashford was sent off for standing on Elias Jelert’s ankle. Copenhagen got the advantage were level before the break. Bruno Fernandes re-established United’s lead after scoring from the spot, but the visitors collapsed near the end of the second half. Two late goals turned it around for the hosts, now United are almost out of the Champions League 2023-24.
There were plenty of dramas in the game. United were playing excellent football but the red card changed everything. It was indeed unintentionally from Rashford but he cannot change the rule. Copenhagen found themselves back in front of their wild crowd support and scored two goals before the end of the first half. People can argue over Manchester United's injury crisis and luck factor but it is football. Sometimes it works in your favour and sometimes it's not. The game was indeed intense and the red card made it possible. United were cruising after Rasmus' brace but found themselves unlucky on that red card and Maguire's handball incidents.
Well, they got the opportunity back in the second half and took that with open arms but couldn't hold on to it to claim the important three points. They will have to do some magical things now to turn the table upside down from there otherwise it's crystal clear.
"We started very well and we controlled the game until the red card. That changed the game. If you don’t look at the result, if you only look at the opening 20 minutes, we did quite well. We switched off (after the red). It also gave them a lot of belief. And the crowd got behind the team. It gave them a big boost. We did well at the beginning of the second half. We were composed on the ball and got the penalty to get in front so it’s unfortunate to leave with zero points,” Rasmus Hojlund said after the match.
Hojlund fired United to a brilliant start in a roller-coaster first half, scoring his first just 171 into the game by tucking in Scott McTominay's pass from close range. The 20-year-old netted again against his former club in the 28th minute after a Kamil Grabara save sent the ball spinning practically to his feet.
The situation turned when Rashford was sent off in the 42nd minute for planting his foot on the ankle of Elias Jelert to protect the ball. The moment breathed new life into the home side and Mohamed Elyounoussi pulled one back three minutes later.
There was more misery to come as Copenhagen were awarded a penalty right before halftime after Harry Maguire's handball, and Diogo Goncalves slotted it past Andre Onana.
United regained the lead when VAR awarded them a penalty for a handball which Bruno Fernandes calmly converted. It was controversial too but Maguire's handball could stand it had to too. Bruno knew the importance of the opportunity and made no mistake in converting. Manchester United fans found themselves back in the stands after that cold finish but they didn't know at the time, what was coming to hit them back.
In the 83rd, Lukas Lerager sprinted in to meet Rasmus Falk's cross and four minutes later 17-year-old substitute Roony Bardghji scored the winner for the hosts.
As the teams walked onto the pitch at Parken Stadium, Copenhagen fans unveiled a tifo that read "Your Theatre of Nightmares," a play on Old Trafford's nickname as the Theatre of Dreams and an apt description on Wednesday.
United became the first side to score two goals, have a player sent off, and concede a penalty in the first half of a Champions League match since Bayern Munich against Man City in November 2014.
The loss spoiled a feel-good return to Copenhagen for Hojlund but he did play brilliant football and scored a brace to extend his goal tally to 5 for Manchester United in the Champions League 2023-24 season.
United have two tough games to finish the group stage, at third-placed Galatasaray, who have four points, on Nov. 29 and at home against Bayern Munich on Dec. 12, who have already booked their spot in the last 16.