Champions League: Kylian Mbappe and PSG give Man Utd a footballing lesson
Solskjaer’s side have a mountain to climb in Paris after 2-0 loss at Old Trafford
Champions League last-16 first leg Manchester United 0 Paris Saint-Germain 2
The Theatre of Dreams was the stuff of nightmares for Manchester United last night as they were given a footballing lesson by Paris Saint-Germain.
The French champions were supposed to be there for the taking, what with the injuries to star forwards Neymar and Edinson Cavani, but despite those absences PSG inflicted a 2-0 defeat on their hosts to leave United with a mountain to climb in the return leg of their last-16 Champions League tie.
“Mountains are there to be climbed,” declared Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as he came to terms with his first defeat as United’s caretaker manager.
It has been a fine run for the Norwegian, but the 11-match unbeaten streak was ended in emphatic style on a night when little went right for the Red Devils.
Not only did they concede two goals, they also lost Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard to injury, and then Paul Pogba got himself sent off in the penultimate minute for his second bookable offence.
“It’s a reality check for us,” admitted Solskjaer, whose United side lost for the first time since 16 December.
“They were a level above us. We have been talking about top four. That is one thing but we want to be at the top and Manchester United should be at the top and this was a top, top team. It’s a difficult mountain to climb but it’s not impossible.”
Problem called Maria
To compound the misery for Man Utd the man responsible above all others for their defeat was one of their old boys, Ángel Di María.
He set up goals for Presnel Kimpembe and the impressive Kylian Mbappe, despite the fact that his every touch was booed by the United faithful, who haven’t forgotten the wretched season he spent at Old Trafford in 2015.
PSG manager Thomas Tuchel suggested that heckling Di Maria hadn’t been the smartest move on the part of the United fans.
“The guy is very competitive,” said Tuchel. “If you tease him, it does not make him weaker. It was a nice comeback for him.”
Red Devils must refocus
Solskjaer admitted that his side deserved the scoreline but nonetheless he believed Kimpembe was fortunate to be on the pitch when he put PSG in front.
Having been booked early on, the defender then clashed with Marcus Rashford but the Italian referee waved play on.
“He was very lucky,” said Solskjaer. “The way he throws Rashford down on the floor second half, we don’t even get a foul… but there’s no point talking about them now.”
Instead United must refocus, first for Monday’s FA Cup fifth-round clash with Chelsea, and then the formidable challenge of going to Paris on 6 March and climbing that mountain.
Reactions to the result
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “There is a determination in the dressing room to put this right. We will give it a go [in Paris]. If we get to half-time with a one-goal lead, that is what we have to aim for.”
PSG scorer Kylian Mbappe: “Neymar is super important and Cavani is fundamental but football gets played on the pitch. We showed that. Don’t be afraid: we’re good. I could have scored goal number three and I think that third goal would have finished the tie. But I’ll look to get one in the second leg.”
Former United defender Gary Neville: “I don’t think Manchester United have any chance in Paris. PSG have too much European nous, too much class. Even though we didn’t see Mbappe at his absolute best, he was still devastating.”
United midfielder Nemanja Matic: “We are not happy, but I am proud of my team, we played some good football and created some good chances. But we had some small details where we need to improve and where the big teams use these chances.”
PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon: “We made it seem easy by putting everything we had into those 90 minutes, the unity that is fundamental in this competition.”
Last-16 results, fixtures and TV guide
Tuesday 12 February results
- Manchester United 0 Paris Saint-Germain 2
- AS Roma 2 FC Porto 1
Wednesday 13 February fixtures
- Ajax vs. Real Madrid (8pm, live on BT Sport 3)
- Tottenham Hotspur vs. Borussia Dortmund (8pm, live on BT Sport 2)
Tuesday 19 February fixtures
- Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich (8pm, live on BT Sport Extra)
- Lyon vs. Barcelona (8pm, live on BT Sport Extra)
Wednesday 20 February fixtures
- Atlético Madrid vs. Juventus (8pm, live on BT Sport Extra)
- FC Schalke vs. Manchester City (8pm, live on BT Sport Extra)
Last-16 second leg fixtures Tuesday 5 March
- Borussia Dortmund vs. Tottenham Hotspur (8pm, live on BT Sport)
- Real Madrid vs. Ajax (8pm, live on BT Sport)
Wednesday 6 March
- FC Porto vs. Roma (1-2 on aggregate; 8pm, live on BT Sport)
- Paris Saint-Germain vs. Manchester United (2-0 on aggregate; 8pm, live on BT Sport)
Tuesday 12 March
- Juventus vs. Atlético Madrid (8pm, live on BT Sport)
- Manchester City vs. FC Schalke (8pm, live on BT Sport)
Wednesday 13 March
- Barcelona vs. Lyon (8pm, live on BT Sport)
- Bayern Munich vs. Liverpool (8pm, live on BT Sport)