On Tuesday night, big-spending French champions PSG won 2-0 at Manchester United in the first leg of the last 16 of the Champions League. The defeat was the first in 12 games under interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. To add to the Red Devils woes, star midfielder Paul Pogba received a late red card after receiving his second booking for a foul on Dani Alves.
Many, including myself, believed that the Red Devils recent momentum might have been enough to give United a chance in this clash. In fact, Solskjaer’s team even headed into the game as favourites.
PSG were simply too good for United
After the game United boss Solskjaer was magnanimous in his praise for the visitors, saying ‘PSG were on a different level’ to his team. The Norwegian summed up the game completely.
The French side have attempted to become a superpower in European football in recent years. However, they usually fall at one of the final fences in the Champions League. What they do have in their team is tremendous European experience.
That experience was the key to victory. After a relatively quiet first half display, the French side produced a much livelier second half performance. Young striker Kylian Mbappe always looked a danger, while Italian central midfielder Marco Verratti controlled the centre of the park. In short, the French side were simply too good for United, even at Old Trafford. The win was comfortable in the end.
The French team frustrated United by nullifying the threat of Paul Pogba and their often-deadly counter-attacks. Their tactics worked to a tee.
United have come a long way in recent months
It is easy to forget that just a couple of months ago United were in crisis under Jose Mourinho. The football was dull and lifeless, while the Portuguese boss looked like he was a dead man walking for much of the campaign.
Solskjaer has managed to revive the team that much that we have forgotten that United still have the same group of players that have struggled for success in the early part of the season.
The Norwegian boss is not a miracle worker and his arrival has lifted spirits. It will be interesting to see how Tuesday night’s defeat will affect the players and the atmosphere at Old Trafford.
Everything had been rosy in the United garden while the team were winning. Now they have lost, can Solskjaer maintain the positive momentum or will his managerial acumen fail to come up trumps for the Red Devils.
Tuesday result could be decisive in whether Solskjaer gets the job on a permanent basis. There has been a huge clamour for his permanent appointment. However, what happens between now and the end of the season will decide his fate.
United have an uphill battle to qualify
Due to their positive form under Solskjaer, the Red Devils looked to have a very real chance of progressing to the last eight. The first-leg defeat means that now looks like an unlikely scenario for United.
The Red Devils were 18/1 to win the Champions League prior to the defeat, United are now odds of 125/1 to lift the trophy in May. Those odds reflect that it looks like United have missed their chance to progress into the quarter-finals of the competition.
As one prominent writer put it, the defeat was a reality check for United and their interim boss. The Red Devils will have to recover quickly, as they face Chelsea in the FA Cup fifth round next Monday, before facing bitter rivals Liverpool in their next league game.
The next few months will tell us a lot about Manchester United, their players and most importantly maybe their temporary boss.
How will Manchester United respond to PSG defeat?
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