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Erik ten Hag: Harsh Marcus Rashford red card changed everything in Man Utd loss

Erik ten Hag was angered by “three tough decisions” that went against Manchester United in a chaotic late loss at Copenhagen that damages their chances of reaching the Champions League knockout phase.

Wednesday’s helter-skelter Group A encounter started with a Rasmus Hojlund brace against his former club but ended in a crushing 4-3 defeat sparked by Marcus Rashford’s red card.

The United forward was sent off after a VAR review late in the first half for catching Elias Jelert, with Mohamed Elyounoussi quickly scoring before Diogo Goncalves levelled from the spot.

Bruno Fernandes’ penalty put the visitors back ahead in the second half, only for Lukas Lerager and substitute Roony Bardghji to score in a blockbuster conclusion to a bonkers match.

“It’s clear we’re very disappointed and because you play very good,” Ten Hag said. “I think we started the game so well. The best minutes of this season.

“We are winning the game and I think the red card changes everything.

“Then we concede two goals before half-time, which should never have counted.

“First is offside, second a penalty and that is – in four games – four penalties against. I say three are very debatable.

Bruno Fernandes appears dejected after Copenhagen’s Diogo Goncalves makes it 2-2
Bruno Fernandes appears dejected after Copenhagen’s Diogo Goncalves makes it 2-2 (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“(Rashford’s red) is also harsh. I think he went for the ball and the referee needs such a long time to make it a red card.”

Ten Hag says an offside player was in Andre Onana’s vision when Elyounoussi scored and was aggrieved by the decision to award handball against Harry Maguire for Goncalves’ penalty.

The United boss was also annoyed by the slow motion and freeze frame shown to referee Donatas Rumsas by the VAR as he decided on Rashford’s red.

“I think when you freeze it, it always looks worse,” Ten Hag said. “As I say, it takes them so long and they make a red card of it.

“I’m very disappointed about such decisions. I think the game is never meant to be like this.

Manchester United suffered a damaging defeat in Copenhagen
Manchester United suffered a damaging defeat in Copenhagen (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“It has nothing to do with football. Decisions have to be made and I accept that also wrong decisions are made by some at this level.

“Three such tough decisions, you control the game and I think the game is never meant to be for that.”

The defeat leaves United bottom of Group A and knowing they will be unable to reach Champions League knockout phase if they lose their penultimate match at Galatasaray at the end of November.

“This squad is resilient,” Ten Hag said. “The whole season, so many decisions are against us, so many setbacks for injuries.

“Every time there is a spirit, there is a fight and we will keep going because I am sure and I said to the lads it will turn – on one moment in the season it will turn in our favour.”

Rasmus Hojlund's brace eventually counted for nothing
Rasmus Hojlund’s brace eventually counted for nothing (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Copenhagen counterpart Jacob Neestrup admitted Rashford’s red card changed the dynamics of a win he felt his side deserved after their promising start to the group.

“I have never said in the first three rounds we have been unlucky,” the head coach said. “I’ve said it’s been a lack of quality.

“If there was something that was called luck in football, then we’ve got it today. But we also hunted.

“The early goal made us very, very shaky. We are the second best team on the pitch in the whole first half until the red card.

Copenhagen players celebrate a famous victory
Copenhagen players celebrate a famous victory (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“That of course changed momentum for the next 15 minutes in the first half where we scored two goals.

“Of course the red card changed the opportunities in the game and for me as Copenhagen coach it was by far the weakest performance we have had in this group stage so far.

“If you take the picture today, then we maybe didn’t deserve three or maybe even one point.

“But if you take it over four rounds, then it’s very, very well deserved that Copenhagen is in second place because I believe truly that we have been the second best team over four games. Not today, but over four games.”