Manchester United's goal-scorer Harry Maguire (L) celebrates with Andre Onana after the goalkeeper's late penalty save against FC Copenhagen
Manchester United's goal-scorer Harry Maguire (L) celebrates with Andre Onana after the goalkeeper's late penalty save against FC Copenhagen | AFP/ Paul ELLIS AFP News

Old Trafford witnessed some late drama as home goalkeeper Andre Onana saved a late penalty to clinch a 1-0 win for Manchester United against Copenhagen in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.

On the night when Manchester United were honouring one of their greatest players, the late Sir Bobby Charlton, and head coach Erik ten Hag stated "victory is our only option", two of the club's most criticised players stepped up.

Harry Maguire, Andre Onana step up

Harry Maguire and Onana have been on the receiving end of massive criticism in recent times.

Manchester United sacked Maguire as their captain this summer and were ready to sell him off to West Ham United but a deal failed to materialise in time during the transfer window ahead of the 2023-24 season. While Maguire decided to stay put at Old Trafford, he has slipped to Ten Hag's fifth-choice central defender, even behind left-back Luke Shaw.

But when the Old Trafford side was looking for a moment of encouragement, Maguire delivered it with a second-half header that turned out to be the winner on Tuesday.

Onana, meanwhile, has received plenty of criticism since his £43.8 million arrival from Inter Milan this summer for making a series of mistakes. But his heroics against Copenhagen that helped Manchester United bag a narrow win have ensured that the Cameroonian goalkeeper will start for the Red Devils against Manchester City this weekend.

Video: Onana's two flying saves

On Tuesday, Onana's clearing kicks were again poor and ended in the stands on many occasions, but his night was defined by two saves he made. Onana made an athletic save to deny Lukas Lerager a goal early in the second half. The goalkeeper then produced a moment of magic to save Jordan Larsson's penalty.

Steve McClaren, a Manchester United coach, ran to the edge of Copenhagen's technical area during the penalty. McClaren appeared to shout at Onana: "Don't jump." Responding to that, Onana dived right. His strong hand deflected the ball away. The penalty save came so late in the match that the ball had hardly stopped bouncing away from the goal when Italian referee Marco Guida blew the final whistle, leaving the home side to break into massive celebrations around Onana.

Heaping praise on the Cameroon international, Ten Hag said: "He showed personality."

"He knows that before, given the levels of what his skills are, he didn't match his skills and he could do better. I think on Saturday [against Sheffield United] it was a very good performance and today as well.

"Don't forget that brilliant save just after half-time in the counter-attack. And also don't forget, one of his skills is he's a very good penalty saver," the Dutch boss added.

It was the first penalty kick save by a Manchester United goalkeeper since 2015, when David de Gea made a save against CSKA Moscow.

Manchester United have opened their account in the 2023-24 Champions League, having lost their opening two fixtures of Group A.

Onana blamed himself for Manchester United's loss to Bayern Munich in their campaign opener after his terrible error allowed Leroy Sané to score a soft first goal. Onana was also at fault in the incident that saw Red Devils midfielder Casemiro get sent off in the 3-2 loss to Galatasaray.

Ten Hag and co. will hope to carry the momentum to Sunday when they host derby rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford in the Premier League.

Manchester United have already lost four games in the league this season, having played nine and with 15 points, they are currently sitting in eighth place. City also have not had the perfect start, having lost two matches in nine fixtures, but they are second in the league table with 21 points, two behind leaders Tottenham Hotspur.