Manchester United have a lot of history to point to when it comes to illustrating their brilliance. On the 6th of March 2019, on a cold, rainy Wednesday night in Paris, the Red Devils added another page to their marvelous tale.
They went into the fixture with a two-goal trail to catch up on, a feat many pundits felt was too hard given their injuries and the suspension of Paul Pogba. However, in the 2nd minute itself the United DNA kicked in and Romelu Lukaku’s goal set the ball rolling.
This was quelled for a bit in the 12th minute when Kylian Mbappe was able to set up a goal for Juan Bernat, who capitalized on an Eric Bailly mistake. That didn’t stop the traveling side though, as Romelu Lukaku scored again in the 30th minute, this time at the expense of Buffon, who was jarred by the intensity of Marcus Rashford’s shot, the rebound falling to the Belgian.
However, Rashford’s real contribution to the game arrived only in the fourth minute of added time, when VAR awarded the Red Devils with an unexpected penalty which the Englishman calmly slotted in, sending the Premier League giants into the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
1. Ole’s at the Wheel
The Norwegian has succeeded in bringing back the club the attacking mentality that was prevalent during the days of Sir Alex Ferguson. The big teams in England are being defeated by his United. He is unbeaten in the Premier League and has a perfect away record, the best in the club’s history, and today he has managed to engineer an almost impossible comeback.
Give the man the job already. It will be a real mystery if Solskjaer isn’t the gaffer come summer and now all that remains to be seen is when the club decides to make the big announcement.
On four separate occasions this season, Manchester United have come back and won the game, in typical Mancunian fashion. However, this tie proved to be a different challenge altogether as the Red Devils were in for a difficult team, a makeshift starting lineup, and a charged stadium.
In the end, that didn’t falter the Red Devils as they waited until extra time to win it all.
2. PSG Bottlers
The French giants have now been on the wrong side of two separate historical comebacks, first against Barcelona two seasons ago in an embarrassing manner and now against Manchester United who have become the first team in Champions League history to have won the tie in the away leg despite going 2-0 down at home.
Does this point to a fundamental flaw in the manner in which PSG operate, or is this a further testament that money alone can not amend the flaws that come with playing in an easy league versus the biggest competition in Europe?
WATCH: Players Reaction To PSG vs Manchester United 1-3
3. Players Rise
Romelu Lukaku’s form is impeccable, arguably amongst the best in Europe right now. His brace in Paris was the third one in as many games, and he is hungry for more.
What is remarkable here is that Lukaku is clearly responding to his critics in the best way possible and in the only way he knows how. Scoring goals and getting back to the top scorer’s list for the club, the Belgian striker showed real intent against PSG.
Solskjaer will now be eager to deploy him properly, and the selection dynamics will certainly benefit from the fiery form that he and Marcus Rashford presently command.
Fred was another player who rose to the occasion. With Pogba suspended, it was the Brazilian’s Champions League experience that was evident in his 100% tackle accuracy and 100% long ball accuracy. All in all, he was solid defensively and started many attacks for the Red Devils.
The chants at added-time say it all, VAR changes the game remarkably. No one saw that penalty coming and the men in white weren’t actively contesting it either, with the Red Devils intent on having won the corner and seeking to capitalize that way.
However, in what has become a regular sight in football since the World Cup final, the referee walks up to the half-way line, and after much deliberation, awards the penalty in dramatic fashion.
This is a further testament that VAR needs to be implemented across all leagues and better investments need to be made to provide apt camera angles.
Meanwhile, the penalty-taker Marcus Rashford was born a month after Buffon made his senior team debut, and tonight the lad from Manchester scored against the legendary goalkeeper. Tough luck for Buffon in the Champions League.
5. Decision Making Ability of the Gaffers
No one is perfect in football and the variety that the two gaffers showed tonight is a testament to how amending one’s mistakes makes the real difference.
Solskjaer took cognizance of the fact that deploying Eric Bailly to cover the flank was a bad choice and his injury gave the gaffer an excuse to sub him off and bring Diogo Dalot on instead. That single decision made a decisive impact on the game and displayed the Norwegian’s ability.
Further, his choice to bring Chong on with 10 minutes to spare was also important as the youngster recovered the ball 3 times, at a faster rate than anyone else on the pitch. Another super sub from the Norwegian, as the youngster’s fresh legs and mindset was much-needed.
In contrast, Tuchel was hesitant and didn’t take Kehrer off until the 70th minute, by when the damage has already been done.
The PSG manager has undoubtedly thrown away an easy win as United’s mental game was the only thing that powered through a watered down starting lineup and mistake-riddled play. Perhaps the only way for the Parisians to win the Champions League is to next hire a manager who has done it before. Speaking of which, Mourinho is currently looking for a job.