In a thrilling Champions League encounter, Manchester United fell victim to a series of contentious VAR decisions that left their manager, Erik ten Hag, fuming.
The Red Devils suffered a 4-3 defeat to FC Copenhagen, leaving them languishing at the bottom of Group A with two matches left to play.
The drama unfolded at Parken on a night filled with goals and high emotions. United had raced to a 2-0 lead when disaster struck in the form of Marcus Rashford’s controversial red card.
Rashford appeared to step on Elias Jelert’s ankle near the visitors’ area, prompting referee Donatas Rumsas to consult the pitchside VAR screen. The decision led to Rashford’s dismissal.
Just three minutes later, Mohamed Elyounoussi found the net, but Ten Hag argued that the goal should have been disallowed due to an offside Copenhagen player obstructing United goalkeeper André Onana’s view.
Adding to the chaos, Ten Hag also questioned the legitimacy of Diogo Gonçalves’s penalty in the ninth minute of added time in the first half.
The penalty was awarded for handball against Harry Maguire, but the United manager contended that Maguire’s hand was in a natural position.
Ten Hag expressed his frustration, saying, “It’s clear: we are very disappointed. We started the game so well – the best 10 minutes of the season – we were winning the game, and the red card changed everything.
We then conceded two goals before half-time, which should never have counted.”
He continued, “The first is offside, the second a penalty – but it’s so close, and the hand is in such a normal position. The red card is harsh; Rashford went for the ball, and the referee needed such a long time to decide.
It always looks worse when you freeze the act. I’m very disappointed about such decisions. This is not how the game is supposed to be played; this is not football.
Decisions have to be made, and I accept that wrong decisions are also made at this level. Three really tough choices to make tonight when you’re in charge of the game.”
Despite the controversy, Manchester United managed to regain the lead in the second half through Bruno Fernandes’s penalty.
However, late strikes from Lukas Lerager and Roony Bardghji condemned the English club to another loss. Now, Ten Hag’s team is one point behind Copenhagen and Galatasaray, trailing the latter by just one goal and the former by the same goal differential.
They will play Galatasaray in their next game before hosting Bayern Munich to end the group round.
Reflecting on the challenging situation, Ten Hag remained optimistic, stating, “This squad is resilient, and I said to the lads: ‘It will turn, one moment in the season it will turn in our favor.'”
The match will undoubtedly be remembered for the controversial decisions that overshadowed the exciting football played on the pitch.
As Manchester United strives to recover from this setback and navigate the remaining group stage matches, the debate over VAR and its impact on the beautiful game rages on.