Erik ten Hag described Manchester United’s performance in their 4-3 defeat at FC Copenhagen as “very good” and pinned the blame for the result on the officials.
United lost for the third time in four Champions League games to leave their hopes of qualifying from Group A hanging by a thread.
Ten Hag’s side led 2-0 before being pegged back to 2-2 after Marcus Rashford was sent off. Bruno Fernandes put United 3-2 ahead but the Premier League side again crumbled at the end of the second half, conceding three or more goals in a match for the seventh time this season.
But despite their slim chances of progressing from a group that they were heavy favourites to negotiate, Ten Hag was pleased with much of what he saw from his side.
“We are very disappointed because we played very good,” he said. “We started the game so well. Our best minutes of the season. We are winning the game and the red card changes everything.”
Copenhagen had more of the possession and registered 16 shots to United’s nine, but Ten Hag insisted: “It’s a game of mistakes. I wouldn’t say we did everything right but there are a lot of positives.
“Even with 10 men we were dictating the game. We played very good.”
Instead, Ten Hag believes a number of decisions went against United in the Danish capital, starting with the call to send off Rashford for stamping on Elias Jelert as he looked to protect the ball following a VAR review.
“So, so harsh,” Ten Hag said of the decision. “He went for the ball and the referee needs a long time to make it a red card.
“When you freeze it, it looks worse. I am very disappointed about such a decision.”
Ten Hag went on to become the latest manager to criticise the implementation of VAR, adding: “The game is never meant to be like this. This has nothing to do with football.
“I accept wrong decisions are made but when you make such tough decisions, you control the game.”
Ten Hag did not comment on the penalty that was controversially awarded to United for handball against Lukas Lerager – despite the ball travelling a short distance and appearing to strike Harry Maguire’s hand first.
However, the Dutchman was upset about the penalty Maguire conceded for handball – the fourth to go against United in the Champions League this season – while he also claimed a Copenhagen player obstructed Andre Onana from an offside position for their first goal.
“We concede two goals that should not count,” Ten Hag argued. “The first is offside and the second goal, it’s so close and the hand is in a normal position. What can you do for that?
“Four penalties against us in four games and two or three are very debatable. The game can’t be like this.”
Ten Hag said the decisions that went against his side are part of a pattern that has helped to contribute to the nine defeats they have suffered in 17 games this season – the most at this stage of a campaign in 50 years.
“This squad is so solid,” he said. “All season, so many decisions are against us and so many setbacks with injuries.
“There is a spirit in the squad and every time we will keep going. It will turn in our favour.”
Man Utd’s remaining Champions League fixtures
November 29: Galatasaray (A) – kick-off 5.45pm
December 12: Bayern Munich (H) – kick-off 8pm