Andre Onana saved a penalty in added time to give Manchester United a priceless Champions League victory against Copenhagen.
On an emotional night that began with a lone piper walking out playing the United anthem ‘We’ll Never Die’ as Old Trafford paid its respects to Sir Bobby Charlton, United fans thought Harry Maguire’s first goal since February 2022 had given them the win they craved.
But with the allotted four minutes of added time played, Scott McTominay conceded a penalty by swinging a high boot dangerously near Mohamed Elyounoussi’s face.
But Onana, who has come in for criticism since his £47m summer move from Inter Milan, turned Jordan Larsson’s effort wide with what turned out to be the very last action of the game.
The victory breathed new life into a Champions League campaign that had started with successive defeats for Erik ten Hag’s side.
It was another night when United’s overall performance would not stand up to much scrutiny but, as on Saturday, the manner of the victory was secondary to the eventual outcome given the enormous legacy of the man they were trying to honour.
The two players that secured the precious win for the home side are men who have endured a torrid time recently.
Maguire would have been sold in the summer had he accepted the chance to link up with David Moyes at West Ham United, while many have questioned Ten Hag’s wisdom in replacing David de Gea with Onana.
But when half-time substitute Christian Eriksen delivered a superb curling cross to the far post 18 minutes from time, Maguire met it perfectly, shrugging off the attentions of a defender to make sure he was in position to head home.
It was a moment to savour for the 30-year-old, who lost the United captaincy in the summer and at one point seemed to be Ten Hag’s fifth-choice central defender, behind even left-back Luke Shaw.
The hosts should have eased their path to the final whistle with a second goal but after Alejandro Garnacho’s initial effort was saved superbly by Kamil Grabara, McTominay sent the rebound inches wide of the post.
Skipper Bruno Fernandes also had a shot deflected wide in a pulsating finish but it seemed United would take the points anyway.
Instead, they had to rely on Onana to ensure victory was not stripped from their grasp.
The charismatic Cameroon goalkeeper’s save will allow United to look ahead to the return meeting in Denmark two weeks from now knowing victory will almost certainly take them into second spot behind Bayern Munich in Group A.