Manchester United somehow progressed to the Champions League quarter-finals with Marcus Rashford’s controversial late penalty seeing them overcome Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes.
The visitors got off to the perfect start – as did the tie from a neutral perspective – when Romelu Lukaku pounced on a poor Thilo Kehrer back pass to sweep United ahead.
That sparked the hosts into life and Kylian Mbappe dragged them back into it when he set up Juan Bernat to tap in. However, United retook the lead before the break when Lukaku scored his second – profiting from another mistake when he gleefully tapped in after Gianluigi Buffon spilled Rashford’s speculative effort.
Both teams had chances in the second period but lacked the necessary quality, with the French side looking like they would hang on until late VAR drama with United awarded a stoppage time penalty for a Presnel Kimpembe handball. Rashford rifled it in and United went through on away goals.
Here’s how the United players rated:
MANCHESTER UNITED (5-3-2)
David De Gea – 6: Little to do in truth. Beat away Bernat’s bullet. Nervy punch put side under pressure late on.
Ashley Young – 6: Looked leggy in the last week and was all at sea in a puzzling right-sided role. Much-improved after break, several key interceptions.
Eric Bailly – 4: Endured a nightmare for PSG’s equaliser, initially playing Mbappe onside before failing to track Bernat. Hauled off before the interval.
Victor Lindelof – 6: Focus was key alongside central partner Smalling. Calmness personified. Needs a long-term quality partner.
Chris Smalling – 7: Grew into the game and was kept similarly busy, seven clearances led side. Another solid showing.
Luke Shaw – 7: A nice turn to fool Mbappe and linked well with Rashford. Defended stoutly but passing was a little wayward.
Fred – 7: A quietly effective performance. Ruffled Marco Verratti’s feathers and ran himself into the ground.
Andreas Pereira – 5: Few misplaced passes. Otherwise didn’t do much wrong, but had little impact either.
Scott McTominay – 8: A busy, bustling performance from the athletic Scot. Never overawed. Led team in tackles (five).
Romelu Lukaku – 8: Alert to Kehrer’s early error, pouncing to round Buffon and finish assuredly. Gobbled up second chance. Six goals in three games.
Since joining Man Utd, Romelu Lukaku has scored 7 Champions League goals, 3 more than any other Man Utd player.— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) March 6, 2019
Relishing the big occasion. 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/TdTmxUbKsP
Marcus Rashford – 5: Wasteful and kept in check, but hopeful shot led to second goal for Lukaku. Not his best night but ended up being the matchwinner.
Diogo Dalot – 6: An instant upgrade on Bailly. Neat skill set up an attacking chance. Growing with every outing.
Tahith Chong N/A: Exciting Dutchman thrown on as United pressed. Fine tackle on Verratti.
Mason Greenwood N/A: Teenager replaced Young in a bold move from Solskjaer.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Manchester United can spark another memorable Paris St Germain collapse, despite 10 absentees compounding their difficult Champions League challenge.
United have to make history at the Parc des Princes if they are to progress from Wednesday’s last-16 clash, given all 106 teams that have previously secured a 2-0 first leg away win in the European Cup have made it through.
Solskjaer freely admits that they have a mountain to climb, but the caretaker manager was quick to point to their European history and PSG’s soft underbelly on the eve of the second leg.
It is just two years since the perennial Ligue 1 champions were on the wrong end of Champions League history when Barcelona recovered from a 4-0 loss in Paris to win the second leg of their round of 16 tie 6-1.
“Of course, everyone knows that we can do it, we have done it – and the results in Champions League in the last few years,” Solskjaer said at the Parc des Princes.
“I don’t want to call it strange, but last year Juventus lost 3-0 at home against Real Madrid and suddenly they were 3-0 up after 90 minutes against Madrid away.
“The year before that, PSG against Barcelona. We all remember those results. So, there are so many examples of teams who can change results like this.
“Also, as a club, we’ve done it so many times. The players have been fantastic away from home, beaten Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, which has given us the belief we can do this as well.”
That belief, and United’s current club-record run of eight successive away wins, is why Solskjaer says this second leg was “never mission impossible”.
If the players need further inspiration, they only need to look to the 1999 treble hero or former manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who travelled with the squad but will not be making a speech in Paris.
“It’s a difficult task but we can do it,” Solskjaer said on the eve of his first away game managing in the Champions League knockout phase.
“Obviously we need the first goal and we need to stay in the game. If there’s half an hour left and there’s one goal in it, anything can happen. But we need a good plan, it needs to be put in place and we need to perform on the night because they are a team full of quality.”
United undoubtedly have the players to hurt PSG, it is just that Solskjaer will be without 10 of them.
Paul Pogba travelled to Paris but his red card at the end of the first leg means he is suspended at the Parc des Princes, where Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Jesse Lingard and Nemanja Matic are unavailable.
Anthony Martial, Phil Jones, Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian are other absentees, while Alexis Sanchez became the latest to miss out after sustaining a knee injury in Saturday’s thrilling 3-2 comeback win against Southampton.
“It was a bad knee injury so if it’s four weeks or six, hopefully, he’ll recover quickly,” Solskjaer said of Sanchez.
“It’s just one of those situations that we come into, that we’ve lost a few players.
“We’ll cope with that, we’ll have a good team out there. We didn’t lose any in the last game – Alexis was the one that we struggled to get fit for now.”
That clutch of absentees has seen United turn to the academy. Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes and James Garner have travelled with the squad again, with 18-year-old Brandon Williams joining up with the senior team for the first time.
“Brandon is a full-back who can play both sides, quick,” Solskjaer added.
“It’s the first time he travels with us – he didn’t expect to come, but that’s part of being here.
“Suddenly you’re called upon, that’s why you’re in the academy, that we believe in you and suddenly you have to step up.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer became a Manchester United legend for finishing off a miracle Champions League win as a player, and the team need something similar from him as manager on Wednesday as they look to overturn a 2-0 deficit away from home against Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16.
Beating PSG on their own patch by at least two goals is a near impossible task – though United have won 2-0 and 3-1 in their last two away games, albeit against Chelsea and Crystal Palace rather than one of Europe’s best teams.
But United aren’t going to Paris to make up the numbers, and Solskjaer will have plenty of ideas on his mind as he looks to script another legendary moment in the club’s rich European history. Here’s a look at a couple of tactics he could employ to make that happen – and for a closer look at PSG’s potential tactics, check out our analysis here.
FRED SPRINGING THE UNITED COUNTER
Recent appearances may be an indication that Fred is beginning to find his feet at United. A solid, if unspectacular, performance against Crystal Palace last week was followed by a substitute appearance against Southampton in which he set up Romelu Lukaku’s winner.
With Paul Pogba’s suspension, and the other injuries to United’s midfield, Fred is certain to start in Paris. And the Brazilian will have a crucial role. Though he often gets criticised for over-complicating play in midfield or attempting too many Hollywood passes, that is perhaps exactly what he needs to do on Wednesday.
Sitting in a deep role, the Brazilian will be crucial to springing United’s counter-attacks. There should be space on either side of PSG’s expected back three, and it will be Fred’s job to find his attackers in that space, quickly, with long diagonals over the top.
ANDREAS PEREIRA’S DUAL ROLE AS NO 10
The No 10 role has been a multi-purpose one at United under Solskjaer, and the manager has stumbled into a solution at the position in wake of injuries to Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata. Andreas Pereira had a goal and an assist on Saturday and afterwards, Solskjaer said the Brazil international could see more minutes in a central attacking position.
Pereira’s ability to find space between the lines in that role was on display in that dramatic win over Southampton. He’ll need to do more of the same in Paris, essentially stepping into Pogba’s shoes with his attacking thrust.
He will also likely be required to help press Verratti, like Mata did to Jorginho against Chelsea. The Italian cannot be allowed time and space on the ball, and Pereira will need to help prevent that from happening.