Man United's Woes Deepen After Contentious Champions League Red Card
|Marcus Rashford of Manchester United is shown a red card after a VAR check during the UEFA Champions League match between F.C. Copenhagen and Manchester United at Parken Stadium on November 08, 2023 in Copenhagen, Denmark.(Image-Getty)
Erik ten Hag, still reeling from Manchester United's narrow 4-3 defeat against FC Copenhagen in the Champions League on Wednesday, expressed his dismay over Marcus Rashford's contentious red card, which triggered a substantial shift in momentum during the game. Despite Rasmus Hojlund's impressive brace propelling United to a strong start, Ten Hag's 10-man squad relinquished their comfortable two-goal lead following Rashford's expulsion in the 42nd minute. The loss further compounded United's ongoing season struggles, with their dismal performance leaving them languishing in eighth place in the Premier League standings and teetering on the edge of Champions League qualification with just two group matches remaining.
In a post-match interview with TNT Sports, Ten Hag lamented the turn of events, stating, "Do you have one hour? I think first we played very good until the red card. The red card changed everything. Then it becomes a different game. It is disappointing." This sentiment echoed the team's frustration as they now find themselves at the bottom of Group A with a meager three points.
Rashford's red card, which was issued after he inadvertently placed his foot on Elias Jelert's ankle while trying to shield the ball, drew Ten Hag's criticism. "It is a harsh decision," the Dutch manager asserted, expressing his belief that the referee's uncertainty played a significant role in the ruling. His stance was mirrored by former United players Owen Hargreaves and Paul Scholes, who adamantly disagreed with the severity of the red card, emphasizing that Rashford's actions were not intentional or malicious.
The defeat marked a series of unfortunate firsts for Manchester United, including their initial Champions League loss while leading by two or more goals and their first defeat after holding a two-goal advantage in any competition since September 2014. This setback compounded the team's struggles, as they grappled with their worst start to a season since 1962, having suffered successive 3-0 home defeats prior to their narrow victory against Fulham.
Ten Hag, acknowledging the challenging season, remained optimistic about the team's prospects, noting, "That's how it is. But the season is long. At one point it will turn in our favour." Despite the setback, he commended his side's strong performance in the initial 20 minutes and expressed disappointment that their valiant efforts had not yielded any points.