Marcus Rashford’s red card that caused a massive momentum shift in Manchester United’s 4-3 Champions League loss to FC Copenhagen on Wednesday was “harsh,” a shell-shocked Erik ten Hag said as his team’s early-season calamity continued.
Rasmus Hojlund’s brace fired United to a brilliant start but Ten Hag’s 10-man side gave up their two-goal lead after Rashford’s dismissal in the 42nd minute – and now United, who have already been eliminated from the League Cup and are a lowly eighth in the Premier League, are on a Champions League knife edge with two group games left to play.
“Do you have one hour?” Ten Hag told TNT Sports, when asked for his thoughts on the game. “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.”
The loss left them last in Group A on three points.
Rashford’s red card was given after he planted his foot on the ankle of Elias Jelert to protect the ball and it drew the ire of Ten Hag.
“It is a harsh decision,” the Dutchman said. “He was going for the ball. The review was over, then (the referee) went up to the screen. I think the referee was not sure.”
Ten Hag was not alone in his assessment.
“No, not in a million years (should it have been a red),” former United player Owen Hargreaves said on the TNT broadcast. “Marcus is just trying to put his leg in front of the ball. He’s not even looking at the ball.
“When you see a still as a referee, it looks horrendous. It’s not malicious, it’s not serious foul play.”
Fellow former United player Paul Scholes added: “I think that’s where the understanding of the referee has to come into it. It’s an accident. He’s trying to plant his foot and protect the ball.”
The loss was United’s first in the Champions League in which they led by two or more goals. It was also their first defeat after taking a two-goal lead in all competitions since September 2014 when they lost 5-3 to Leicester City.
It was also part of a bigger picture in which United stumbled out to their worst start to a season since 1962 after successive 3-0 home defeats. A 1-0 victory at Fulham on Saturday eased the pressure on Ten Hag – at least temporarily.
Ten Hag said the Rashford red was not the first questionable decision that has gone against them this season.
“That’s how it is. But the season is long. At one point it will turn in our favour,” he said.
“That was the best (first) 20 minutes I saw from my side,” he added. “Also, we were still controlling the game. It’s very disappointing. We fought so hard, played so good. Still we don’t have one point.”