It never rains but it pours...
Manchester United got off to an excellent start against Copenhagen and looked to have finally got their Champions League campaign back on track, but were punished by their resilient hosts, backed by a raucous home crowd, and certainly not aided by the officials.
What was perhaps harder to take for Erik ten Hag is it was one of the few times this season his side were successfully executing a gameplan. The Red Devils have been ahead for just 9.9% of their Premier League games this season; only Luton and Sheffield United have spent less time in front.
But on Wednesday night, things were finally going their way. They led inside three minutes through Rasmus Hojlund as their pre-match price of 4/5 was cut to 2/7.
Hojlund then bagged his fifth Champions League goal of the season inside half an hour as United were into 1/25 and Copenhagen drifted from 16/5 pre-match to 10/1 after the first goal to 33/1, and of course, punters who’d backed Manchester United pre-match were paid out early as part of our 2 Goals Ahead Early Payout offer, meaning they could put their feet up and watch the rest of the drama unfold in peace.
And what drama there was. With United cruising to a victory that would’ve likely left them a win away from qualification saw their chances thrown into jeopardy when Marcus Rashford – 66/1 pre-match to be shown a red card - was harshly sent off after catching Elias Jelert while trying to shield the ball – though United to take a lead into half time was still as short as 125/1.
Copenhagen’s price was cut to 16/1 was cut further to 15/4 just minutes later when the hosts received more fortune from the officials – despite Elias Achouri stood in front of Andre Onana, Mohamed Elyounoussi’s goal was allowed to stand and the Danish champions had a way back into the game, though the visitors were still odds-on at 8/11.
More controversy followed in stoppage time when Harry Maguire conceded a penalty for handball – harsh, but correct according to UEFA’s interpretation of the law.
Diogo Goncalves converted from the spot and the hosts were favourites at 6/5 with United out to 7/2.
To the away side’s credit, they made a contest of it in the second half, being awarded a similarly eyebrow-raising penalty in the second half to retake the lead and go 1/2 favourites with Copenhagen back out to 10/1
They would lead for 15 minutes and but Lukas Lerager’s late equaliser saw United back out to 15/2 with Copenhagen 7/2 before 17-year-old Roony Bardghji’s even later winner saw the 100/1 pre-match correct score of 4-3 land.
bet365's Steve Freeth said: "Copenhagen 4-3 Manchester United looks a coupon buster on paper, but not for the bet365 customers who backed the Red Devils in pre-game singles and multiples thanks to the 2 Goals Ahead Early Payout offer meaning we paid out on both the Red Devils as well as match-winners FC Copenhagen.
"It's the second Champions League game in succession that Erik ten Hag’s side have cost us with the Danes missing an injury-time penalty at Old Trafford to level it up leaving us with a similar outcome to Wednesday night – seven out of eight favourites obliging with the other a 1-1 draw."
It leaves Manchester United well up against it to get out of a group that shouldn’t have caused them too many problems. They now have two of the three toughest fixtures to come in the group with just one win to their name, but all hope is not lost.
United are 6/4 to qualify from Group A, and need favours elsewhere.
If Manchester United lose to Galatasaray away in three weeks’ time, they’ll be eliminated.
If they win and we assume Bayern beat Copenhagen, and Copenhagen draw with Galatasaray in Denmark in the final group game, United will be through.
Of course if either side wins that final game, United will need to get a result against Bayern.
After playing two games against Copenhagen and hosting Galatasaray, one win from four is certainly not where United expected to be. But it’s where they are, and they have it all to do to make the Champions League knockout stage for just the fourth time in 10 seasons.