Andre Onana and Harry Maguire were the unlikely heroes as Manchester United kickstarted their Champions League campaign by beating FC Copenhagen 1-0 on the night Bobby Charlton was remembered at Old Trafford.
Much-maligned centre-back Maguire headed in the only goal 18 minutes from time before Onana saved Jordan Larsson’s penalty with the last kick of the game.
The English giants had lost their opening two Champions League group games for the first time in the club’s history, but are back in contention for the last 16 thanks to a much-needed win.
One of United’s greatest ever players, Charlton died on Saturday at the age of 86.
A moving tribute was paid to the 1966 World Cup winner before kick-off as United boss Erik ten Hag laid a wreath in the centre-circle before a minute’s silence was observed.
“It was meant to be,” Maguire told TNT Sports. “We were meant to win the game. A magnificent save and a win dedicated to Sir Bobby and his family.”
Ten Hag urged his players to be inspired by Charlton’s legacy after a difficult start to the season.
But the Dutchman was disheartened by another insipid first-half performance.
The Danish champions were inches away from going in front after just five minutes when Diogo Goncalves hit the post.
The emotional atmosphere around Old Trafford prior to kick-off quickly turned to groans of frustration as the home side laboured to create anything of note before the break.
Onana proves his worth
Onana was also required to prove his worth early in the second-half before United awoke from their slumber.
The Cameroonian made high-profile errors in both United’s Champions League defeats to Bayern Munich and Galatasaray.
But the man who helped Inter Milan reach the final of last season’s competition showed why United splashed out £47 million ($57 million) on him in July.
Onana’a first crucial save of the game prevented Lukas Lerager’s shot finding the top corner.
Rasmus Hojlund failed to shine against his former club, but did tee up Christian Eriksen for a powerful low drive that former Liverpool goalkeeper Kamil Grabara did brilliantly to turn behind.
Marcus Rashford’s lack of confidence in front of goal was also on show as a heavy touch when clean through wasted a huge chance before substitute Alejandro Garnacho did exactly the same with just Grabara to beat.
Instead Maguire bailed out his forwards to at least ensure Charlton’s farewell was marked with a victory.
The England international had fallen way down the pecking order during Ten Hag’s first season in charge, but is making the most of a series of defensive injuries that have brought him back into the fold.
Maguire just stayed onside to meet Eriksen’s cross with a bullet header 18 minutes from time.
“When you are not on your game it gets picked up, but I am really proud and pleased how I have acted over this six to 12 months,” added Maguire.
“I have been given an opportunity and I want to help the team and get the club back to where it should be.”
United should have added a second as Garnacho and Scott McTominay passed up big chances to double the lead.
And they were nearly made to pay when McTominay was penalised for a high foot on Mohamed Elyounoussi deep into stoppage time.
Larsson, son of former United striker Henrik Larsson, stepped forward but his powerful effort was turned behind by Onana to spark wild scenes of celebration.
“I’m just doing my job,” said Onana.
“We are Manchester United. We are a big club, big players … now we have to continue like this. I have no doubt we will make it (through).”
Victory takes United above Copenhagen into third in Group A and within one point of Galatasaray.
Bayern are already closing in on qualification after a 3-1 win over Galatasaray made it three wins from three games for the German giants.