Manchester United somehow progressed to the Champions League quarter-finals with Marcus Rashford’s controversial late penalty seeing them overcome Paris Saint-Germain.
In truth, despite an unjust decision, PSG had only themselves to blame for letting an injury-ravaged United the chance to get back in the tie.
Romelu Lukaku made things interesting when he pounced on a poor Thilo Kehrer back pass to sweep United ahead inside two minutes.
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 Marcus Rashford’s speculative effort.
Both teams threatened in the second half but Thomas Tuchel’s side looked to be heading into the last eight before the late intervention of VAR as Presnel Kimpembe was adjudged to have handballed. Rashford’s goal gave United a 3-1 win on the night and they went through on away goals.
Here we rate the PSG players:
Gianluigi Buffon – 5: Horrendous gaffe from one of the game’s greats gifted United and Lukaku second, providing hope.
Thilo Kehrer – 4: Horrible back-pass handed the away side hope most felt unlikely. Endured a torrid evening. Taken off.
Thiago Silva – 7: As youngsters Kehrer and Kimpembe struggled in the rain, he was a tower of strength as usual.
Presnel Kimpembe – 6: Jointly led PSG with three tackles but Lukaku’s strength made him struggle. Handball was very harsh.
Dani Alves – 5: Wily veteran skied over as he relished getting forward with PSG pressing, but went missing as United gained a foothold.
Marquinhos – 6: Immense in shackling Paul Pogba in the first leg, he struggled against marauding Scott McTominay and Fred.
Marco Verratti – 7: A sublime footballer, tormented United early on before influence waned. Not quite fully fit?
Juan Bernat – 7: Gleefully ghosted in to tap in the equaliser, forcing another stop from David De Gea thereafter. Always an outlet.
Julian Draxler – 4: A sublime talent but so often you struggle to see his influence on games. As Mbappe and Di Maria threatened, he ambled. Injured.
Angel Di Maria – 8: Like in the away leg, always looked threatening, sending one fierce, fizzing effort wide in the first half. Four key passes in first half alone. Menacing.
Kylian Mbappe – 7: Give him space and he’ll hurt you. Teed up Bernat and United’s defence was always nervous. Luckily he was largely sloppy after that.
Leandro Paredes – 6: Most meaningful contribution was a crude lunge on Andreas Pereira that yielded a yellow card.
Thomas Meunier – 6: Back from injury and lent pace to PSG’s right flank.
Edinson Cavani N/A: That he featured told you how PSG had thrown the tie away.
Their superb performance from the first leg has given manager Thomas Tuchel some breathing space going into this fixture, with complacency now his side’s biggest enemy as they look to seal a quarter-final berth.
Here’s a look at the tactical talking points likely weighing on Tuchel’s mind heading into the second leg. Check out our analysis of United’s tactical options here.
LET VERRATTI DICTATE PROCEEDINGS
Though PSG are in a commanding position, it will take only one United goal for the nerves to kick in again. And the surest way for United to disrupt PSG’s rhythm is to target their lead midfielder.
They’ll have noted Verratti’s impact in the first leg – he had the most touches and passes in the game – and will be paying him close attention this time around.
The Italian will need support to keep PSG in control of the game. Keep feeding the Italian the ball, make sure there’s a player close by in case he needs to recycle possession, and give him attacking runs to find with his pinpoint passing, and PSG will dominate. Simple enough in theory – they do it every week – but this time, they’ll have to do it while adjusting to United’s counter-plan for the midfielder.
TUCHEL’S FORMATION OPTIONS
Tuchel used a 4-2-3-1 formation in the first leg, with Marquinhos sitting alongside Verratti and Dani Alves deployed as a winger, though in attack it often looked more like a 3-4-2-1 as Juan Bernat pushed forward. Though the success in that game may tempt Tuchel to adopt the same tactics this time around, he’s also been experimenting with his tactics in recent weeks.
PSG have played in a 3-5-2, 4-4-2 (twice), and 3-4-3 in the four games since their win over United. The German has a preference for formations with three at the back and he may think that the work rate demanded in such a set-up will help guard against complacency. At the same time, it also leaves space behind the wing-backs that someone like Marcus Rashford would love to exploit.
Could pragmatism rule the day? PSG have a two-goal lead, and playing four at the back will give them enough cover against United’s counter-attacks.
Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel hailed his side’s “exceptional mentality” and described Kylian Mbappe as “a special player” after the 1-0 victory at St Etienne.
Mbappe’s winner, his 19th Ligue 1 goal of the season, came in 73rd-minute of the contest when the 20-year-old sent a superb volley into the corner of the net.
Tuchel, whose table-toppers are now 12 points clear of second-placed Lille with two games in hand, was quoted by L’Equipe as saying: “I am very happy because I knew very well that it was very difficult to play at St Etienne.
“The field was very difficult to play. My team showed an exceptional mentality.
“We accepted all the circumstances. We’re in the game with our head. We defended with great intensity and vigilance. I am very happy. We have been patient, the victory is deserved.”
Regarding Mbappe’s latest goal, five days on from his strike in the 2-0 Champions League win at Manchester United, Tuchel said: “He shows his quality every day in training, he has this hunger to score, score, score. It’s his quality. He is a special player.”
The German added: “Everyone was tired after Manchester United, physically but also mentally. It was necessary to control the game, to play focused. We showed the mentality to win.”
PSG, once again without injured duo Neymar and Edinson Cavani, had gone close to scoring six minutes prior to Mbappe’s goal through Angel Di Maria, and Julian Draxler was denied by a fine Stephane Ruffier save earlier in the second half.
Between those attempts Gabriel Silva shot just wide of the visitors’ goal, and the closest fifth-placed St Etienne came in their search for an equaliser was Kevin Monnet-Paquet driving an attempt over the bar in the 84th minute.