MANCHESTER: Harry Maguire and Andre Onana, two of Manchester United’s biggest targets of fan criticism, earned a huge measure of redemption in their squad’s 1-0 victory over FC Copenhagen on Tuesday — and praise from manager Erik ten Hag.
Maguire, whose abuse from supporters had former player David Beckham reach out to him in support, headed home in the 72nd minute, while Onana saved a penalty in the final seconds of the match for United’s first Champions League win of the season.
Ten Hag said defender Maguire, who was also excellent in Saturday’s 2-1 Premier League win at Sheffield United, is playing much more proactively in possession.
“Stepping in passing vertical, defending also on front foot, stepping in defending forward, very confident in the duels, he is dominating, dominating his opponents,” ten Hag said.
“And then you see also a very good skill from him with his heading, great pass from Christian (Eriksen) as well but very good finish.”
Onana has been harshly criticised since arriving from Inter Milan in the transfer window. There was nothing but love for the goalkeeper on Tuesday, however, after he dived left to push away Jordan Larsson’s spotkick and was mobbed by his teammates.
“He showed personality, and he knows that before was not the levels that his skills are, he didn’t match his skills and he could do better and I think Saturday (at Sheffield) was a very good performance and today as well,” ten Hag told reporters.
The victory, which began with a stirring tribute to club great Bobby Charlton, who died on Saturday at age 86, propelled United into third in Group A on three points after three games.
While United stumbled to a horrible start to their domestic season, they have won their last three games in all competitions – perfect timing for a hot streak, ten Hag said, ahead of Sunday’s derby against Manchester City at Old Trafford.
“There is a great spirit and they are together and that is important always as a team, the team is more than the sum of the individuals,” ten Hag said. “That is what we have to take into the Manchester derby … to fight together and then we have a very good chance to get a result.”
Ten Hag, Charlton’s former team mate Alex Stepney, and Under 19s team captain Dan Gore followed a lone piper to the centre of the pitch where the manager laid a wreath during the moving pre-game tribute to the World Cup winner and one of England and Manchester United’s greatest players.