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Manchester United’s luck will turn, insists defiant boss Erik ten Hag after 4-3 Champions League loss

COPENHAGEN – Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag said his side are due a turnaround in fortunes, after collapsing to a 4-3 defeat at FC Copenhagen on Wednesday that left the Red Devils a step closer to exiting the Champions League.

United led 2-0 inside half an hour in the Danish capital after Rasmus Hojlund struck twice against his former club.

But a red card for Marcus Rashford after a VAR (video assistant referee) review on 42 minutes changed the course of the game.

Copenhagen made the most of 13 added minutes at the end of the first half to level through Mohamed Elyounoussi and a Diogo Goncalves penalty.

Bruno Fernandes restored United’s lead from the penalty spot but the Danish champions struck twice in the final 10 minutes – through Lukas Lerager and Roony Bardghji – to secure their first Champions League win since 2016.

A third defeat in four games leaves United bottom of Group A, but ten Hag was unhappy at the award of both Copenhagen’s first two goals and Rashford’s dismissal.

The Dutchman believed Elyounoussi’s strike should have been ruled out for offside and that the decision to penalise Harry Maguire for handball inside the area was harsh.

“We played very good until the red card. The red card changed everything. Then we concede two goals that should never count,” said the United boss.

“Not only tonight. In this moment, we are in a season where we have to deal with many decisions against us.

“That’s how it is. But I’m sure it will turn. A season is long and at one point it will turn in our favour.”

A ninth defeat in 17 games this season ramps up the pressure on ten Hag’s position.

However, he believes there are positives to take from his side’s performance before Rashford’s “harsh” dismissal.

There appeared to be no intent from the England forward when his studs caught Elias Jelert on the ankle as he tried to protect the ball.

“It is a harsh decision,” ten Hag added. “He was going for the ball. The review was over, then (the referee) went up to the screen. I think the referee was not sure.”

He was not alone in his assessment.

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“No, not in a million years (should it have been a red),” former United player Owen Hargreaves said on the TNT broadcast. “Marcus is just trying to put his leg in front of the ball. He’s not even looking at the ball. It’s not malicious, it’s not serious foul play.”

Fellow former United player Paul Scholes added: “I think that’s where the understanding of the referee has to come into it. It’s an accident. He’s trying to plant his foot and protect the ball.”

The loss was United’s first in the Champions League in which they led by two or more goals. It was also their first defeat after taking a two-goal lead in all competitions since September 2014 when they lost 5-3 to Leicester City.

But they had produced arguably their best first 30 minutes of the season so far as two predatory finishes from Hojlund took his tally to five Champions League goals in four games.

“I have seen a lot of positives from this game but at the end we lose possibly some focus,” said ten Hag.

“Also, with 10 (men) we were still controlling the game. (The players are) very disappointed of course. We fought so hard, played so good and still we don’t have one point.”

United can still reach the last 16 as they sit one point behind Galatasaray and Copenhagen – both on four – in the battle to join Bayern Munich (12) in the knockout stage.

Ten Hag’s men travel to Galatasaray in three weeks before hosting Bayern at Old Trafford on Dec 12.

As United struggled, Bayern captain Manuel Neuer called Harry Kane a “phenomenon” after the striker scored two goals in the final 10 minutes in their 2-1 defeat of Galatasaray at the Allianz Arena.

“I’m enjoying it,” Kane said of his blistering start to life in Germany.

“As a striker, I love to score goals, love being on the pitch and most importantly love winning games.” AFP, REUTERS

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