Manchester United shocked the footballing fraternity to its core with an astounding 3-1 victory at the Parc des Princes to progress to the quarterfinals. In the process, the Red Devils overturn a two-goal deficit to shock PSG.
The home side got off to a horrendous start as an elementary error by Kehrer allowed Romelu Lukaku the chance to open the scoring. The Belgian made no mistake and calmly rounded Gianluigi Buffon before slotting the ball home.
The hosts though fought back instantly and levelled through Juan Bernat in the 12th minute. However, PSG piled more misery upon themselves as a mistake by Buffon presented Lukaku with the second goal.
In the second half, the Parisians controlled the majority of possession and looked the more likely to get on the score-sheet. However, a dubious VAR moment awarded Manchester United a penalty in stoppage time. Marcus Rashford stepped up and rifled the ball beyond Buffon’s reach to seal the Red Devils’ qualification.
Here is a look at the three factors that helped Manchester United script an astonishing comeback:
#1 Manchester United hold their nerve at the end
Before Wednesday evening, no team had ever let a two away goal cushion slip since the inception of the Champions League. Yet, after a hundred minutes of riveting football, PSG found themselves at the forefront of an unwanted record.
In the 90th minute, Diogo Dalot’s fierce strike deflected off Presnel Kimpembe. Though it looked innocuous at first glance, on further inspection, the referee deemed it sufficient to award Manchester United a penalty.
With the pressure of millions on his shoulders, Rashford stepped up and coolly smashed the ball past Buffon.
Prior to the penalty incident, the Red Devils had managed the game superbly. The visitors could’ve thrown caution to the wind and left themselves exposed at the back. However, nothing of the sort happened and they were rewarded for their perseverance deep into the game.
With each passing week, Solskjaer is portraying the enormous number of aces he has up his sleeve. Fortunately for United, his trump cards are showing no signs of getting exhausted.
And in sync with him, the Red Devils too displayed a penchant for a late, late goal.
#2 PSG the architects of their own downfall
PSG arrived at the Parc des Princes believing that they had completed a major chunk of their job at Old Trafford. Oh! How wrong could they’ve been?
During the opening minutes, the hosts looked like a side still on the team bus. In the second minute itself, Kehrer laid the ball on a platter for Lukaku to score. Christmas had indeed come a little early for the Belgian but he was to be given another present when Buffon committed a howler to gift the former his second.
Throughout the game, PSG looked lethargic and the hungriness they showcased in the first leg was nowhere to be seen. Their offensive play was lackadaisical and their finishing was quite dire.
While the debate of whether the stoppage-time spot-kick was a penalty or not can rage deep into the night, PSG just didn’t deserve to go through after such a performance.
For years, the Parisians’ sole ambition has been European glory. Yet, with one inexplicable capitulation after another, they are proving that money can’t buy the Champions League after all
#3 Manchester United kept things tight at the back
Manchester United started the game with a back three. The tweak though didn’t go to plan as the visitors looked clueless playing a formation they’d never tried under the Norwegian.
However, an injury to Eric Bailly allowed the Red Devils to revert to a back four and they rarely looked like conceding after the switch.
Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling were immense at the heart of the defense while Luke Shaw manned his flank adroitly. Ashley Young too showcased his experience and galvanized those around him to help limit PSG to a solitary goal.
On numerous occasions, the home side threatened through some neat interplay in midfield. However, they found it hard to break down a resolute defense. The likes of Smalling and Young came up with at least a couple of crucial interventions apiece to keep the Parisians at bay.
Moreover, after the opening thirty minutes, the away side didn’t let PSG run in behind and restricted the space Juan Bernat and Angel Di Maria were finding initially.
Though the hosts lacked penetration in the offensive third, one can take nothing away from the Red Devils’ dogged defensive display.
And despite the quality of PSG’s attack, Manchester United shut them down expertly and succeeded in writing a new chapter in their chequered history.