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Roony rocks United to the core

Updated: 2023-11-10 09:18
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FC Copenhagen's Roony Bardghji wheels away in celebration after netting the winner against Manchester United on Wednesday. AFP

Disaster in Denmark for Ten Hag's men as late goal leaves qualification hopes hanging by thread

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Chants of "Roony, Roony" swept around Parken Stadium after Manchester United's latest loss in the Champions League, and the irony cannot have been lost on the beleaguered English club.

A player whose name has similarities to one of United's greatest players — Wayne Rooney — plunged the team into serious trouble in Europe's top club competition on Wednesday.

Roony Bardghji — a Kuwait-born, 17-year-old winger — capped a wild game that had just about everything by scoring an 87th-minute winner for FC Copenhagen in a 4-3 victory over 10-man United.

An end-to-end match began with Rasmus Hojlund, a former Copenhagen player, scoring twice inside 28 minutes to give United a 2-0 lead, then saw Marcus Rashford shown a 42nd-minute red card for a stamp, before it ended with the visitor collapsing for its third loss in four games in Group A.

Lukas Lerager equalized for Copenhagen in the 83rd and Bardghji became the youngest Champions League scorer against United by driving a bouncing ball inside Andre Onana's near post, securing the Danish club one of the most famous victories in its history.

"It was an amazing night," said Mohamed Elyounoussi, one of Copenhagen's scorers. "I think everybody who was here could see the spirit that we have."

United slumped to last place on three points, one fewer than Copenhagen and Galatasaray with two games left. United heads to Galatasaray next knowing a defeat will mean elimination from the Champions League with one game to spare.

"We have a mountain to climb, so we must climb," United captain Bruno Fernandes said. "We have two games, and we have to win those two games."

The match was played in an extraordinary atmosphere, with Copenhagen fans unveiling a pre-match tifo with the words "Your Theatre of Nightmares" — a reference to the "Theatre of Dreams "nickname of United's Old Trafford stadium — along with a picture of a Red Devil — referencing United's team nickname — asleep in a bed.

It's unlikely to get any cozier in Turkiye. On a previous United visit there to play Galatasaray, the players were greeted with "Welcome to Hell" banners at the airport.

United actually started well against Copenhagen, taking the lead in the third minute when Hojlund, playing against the team where he started his professional career, converted a cross from midfielder Scott McTominay.

After the game was delayed twice due to incidents involving spectators, the 20-year-old Denmark striker doubled the lead by tapping into an empty net after Alejandro Garnacho's shot was saved, but it only got tougher from there for United.

Rashford's sending-off proved to be a turning point and came as he attempted to shield the ball under pressure from Copenhagen's Elias Jelert. He got it wrong and planted his studs on the left ankle of his opponent, with a video review showing the foul that was missed by the on-field referee.

Rashford threw his arms up in disgust when he was shown the red card and his departure initially rocked United, which conceded in the 44th through Elyounoussi and then in the ninth of 13 minutes of first-half stoppage time when Diogo Goncalves converted a penalty after a handball by Harry Maguire.

Back came United and after a penalty was awarded for a handball against Denis Vavro, Bruno Fernandes hammered the spot-kick into the roof of the net for 3-2, which would have been enough for United to go second in the group.

The visitor couldn't hold on, though, and the pressure is firmly back on United manager Erik ten Hag after a ninth loss in 17 games in all competitions.

"We started very well, we controlled the game until the red card," Hojlund said, "and that changed the game, of course."

Agencies via Xinhua

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