PARIS ST GERMAIN 1, MANCHESTER UNITED 2
What a remarkable upturn in the fortunes of Manchester United following a second memorable Champions League win at Paris St Germain in the space of 18 months.
The ghosts of the horrible 6-1 home Premier League defeat to Tottenham little more than a fortnight ago, when critics had begun to question Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s future as manager, seemed a distant nightmare.
The Reds displayed enormous resolve and character to bounce back from that crushing loss with a 4-1 win at Newcastle followed by another huge victory at PSG who less than two months ago were contesting the final of the Champions League.
And it enabled United to create club history as this was a 10th consecutive away victory in all competitions.Embed from Getty Images
A delighted Solskjaer said: “It was a better performance than last time, even though we won 3-1 before.
“We showed we have developed. Scott (McTominay) and Fred were outstanding. Axel did fantastic after being out for 10 months against Neymar and Mbappe. He almost surprised us as well.
“These boys can play. They enjoyed it. I thought we played it right as we wanted it. All credit to them. Attitude, work rate. Last time here, it was euphoric. This is sterile without the fans, but it’s still excellent and we deserved to win.”
Marcus Rashford repeated his late heroics of 2019 with an 87th minute winner as United marked their return to Europe’s elite competition.
On their previous visit Rashford scored a stoppage time penalty in a 3-1 victory on a night when United created Champions League history by becoming the first team to go through after losing the first leg by two goals at home.
What made the victory even more special is that it was achieved without captain Harry Maguire and midfielder Paul Pogba.
There was a surprise call-up for defender Axel Tuanzebe to play in a back five in which he excelled to such a degree he was named man of the match.
United took the lead midway through the opening period through a twice-taken penalty from stand-in captain Bruno Fernandes, his 11th successful spot kick from 12 attempts since his debut in February. The only miss was on Saturday in the win at Newcastle.
Fernandes had VAR to thank, however, as they ordered a retake as PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas was clearly off his line before the save was made.
The Portuguese made no mistake at the second attempt sending Navas the wrong way.
Remarkably it was the 27th penalty awarded to United since the start of last season.
But the multiple French champions were far stronger and threatening in the second half and deservedly drew level in the 55th minute when United striker Anthony Martial headed Neymar’s in-swinging corner into his own net.
Martial became the second French player to score an own goal in the Champions League against PSG at Parc des Princes following Jeremy Mathieu for Barcelona in 2015.
PSG head coach Thomas Tuchel had moved former Reds’ player Angel Di Maria deeper at half time when he sent of Everton loanee Moise Kean.
David de Gea had to put in a much-improved display in United’s goal, making strong saves to deny PSG’s superstar duo Kylian Mbappe and Neymar while Layvin Kurzawa hit the bar.
United had their moments, though, with Rashford failing to make the most of a couple of counter-attack breaks.
Then just as the sides looked set to share the points, Rashford collected a pass from substitute Pogba, rolled away from a defender and fired in off the base of the post from 20 yards.
It was important for United to get off to a winning start as they are in a formidable group and next up at Old Trafford next Wednesday are German giants RB Leipzig when they will be looking to build on this success.