Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham both texted Harry Maguire, his England teammate, following his standout performance in Manchester United’s victory over Copenhagen. With a header in the second half, Maguire scored the game’s lone goal and gave United the three points they needed to restart their Champions League campaign. It was combined with an impressive late penalty save by Andre Onana to give Erik ten Hag’s team a much-needed three points.
Ferdinand had previously compared the Cameroonian’s error-strewn start at Old Trafford to that of David De Gea 12 years previously. The Spaniard was the long-term No.1 for United but had endured a difficult opening few months, in which he adapted to English football.
United had agreed a £30million fee with west Ham to sell the former Leceister defender this summer but personal terms could not be agreed. Ten Hag has always insisted that Maguire remains an important part of the squad at United, but now he is a regular in his line-up.
That was illustrated against the Danish champions when Maguire produced another assured performance in the heart of United’s defence alongside Raphael Varane. It was error-free, saw Maguire join with attacks and even net the headed winning goal.
Bellingham wrote ‘Love to see it’ under an instagram post from Maguire following the win, while Rice told the United defender he was ‘buzzing’ for him. Both players were themselves involved in Champions League action simultaneously, for Real Madrid and Arsenal respectively (indeed, Bellingham continued his remarkable form for Madrid by netting against Braga – his 11th goal of the campaign).
United boss Ten Hag raved about the defender after the game, offering his insight on why he thinks the England international’s form has picked up so much in recent weeks: “He’s playing much more proactively in possession, stepping in, passing vertically.
He’s defending on the front foot, defending forward, very confident in the duels, I think he is dominating in the right way with his aggression against opponents. You see he also gets rewarded. Of course, his heading is a skill… a very good finish.”
Ten Hag also praised goalkeeper Onana, who produced the match-winning penalty save: “He showed personality,” said Ten Hag. “He knows his levels didn’t match his skills before. He could do better. [He had] a very good performance on Saturday. Today, as well. Also, don’t forget that brilliant save just after half-time in the counter-attack. Of course, one of his skills is he’s a very good penalty-saver.”