There is a phrase that says that “Nothing is impossible” Well, there may be some things that are impossible. But, yesterday’s match between Manchester United and PSG was a thriller to watch, especially for Manchester United fans and even those who are neutral.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lead the selected Man United players to a convincing 3-1 victory over PSG! A task that many persons thought was impossible, but not me. It was a mission accomplished for Solskjaer and his team of Manchester United players who flew with him from Manchester all the way to Paris, France to play PSG at the Le Parc des Princes, knowing that only a victory of at least 3 clear goals or a 3-1 victory would be enough.
After almost all the first-team players were unable to play due to injuries, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had to come up with a plan that he knew the players can execute. As football/soccer fans will all know, that managers must always have a plan B, Ole must have sat down with his players and came up with a plan A and plan B.
Was it mission impossible for United?
All Manchester United supporters knew that going to Le Parc des Princes to play Paris Saint-Germain in front of their home crowd and beating them would be no easy task. The Manchester United players went into that match with confidence from themselves and their manager as well as the optimistic Man United supporters such as myself. They went knowing that they wanted to win this match and were of the intention of making it up to their fans for losing 2-0 to PSG at Old Trafford.
Manchester United started playing without Paul Pogba due to suspension. There was no Martial, Lingard, Herrera, Valencia, Sanchez, Matic, nor Jones to play for Man United. Nevertheless, with strikers Rashford and Lukaku who has been in red-hot form up front, Man United had to depend on the likes of Fred, McTominay, Ashley Young and Andreas Pereira in the midfield, Bailly, Lindelof, Smalling and Shaw in the defence.
All the four midfielders had little experience as midfielders (except for Ashley Young who has played in both defensive and midfield roles in the past), compared to Paul Pogba, Herrera and Matic. While on the bench were, Diogo Dalot, Marcos Rojo, James Garner, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes, Mason Greenwood and Sergio Romero as a goalkeeper.
On the other hand, PSG started with the same eleven players that played in their 2 nil victory of over Man United int he first leg at Old Trafford, but Neymar was still out injured and Cavani made a return but was on the bench. PSG is known as the best team in Ligue 1 (French equivalent of the EPL). Also, PSG was one of the teams who are favourites to win the Champions League title this year. They also have a strong defence in the likes of Thiago Silva and Kimpembe and others. Overall, this PSG team in the second leg was stronger than the United team on paper due to skill and experience.
In the midfield, PSG had star player Angel Di Maria (a former United player), Verrati, Draxler, Dani Alves and Marquinhos. The 19-year-old wonder kid and world cup winner Mbappe was their striker. Now comparing this team vs the United team that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had presented, you may easily want to give victory to PSG because overcoming PSG at their home in their current form, seemed impossible- a mission impossible.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s starting eleven
After overcoming the problem of no Pogba, no Martial, no Lingard no Herrera, and no Sanchez, who are some of the best key players for United now, Solskjaer knew that he had to select his best eleven that he got the options from. So, after going through training and coming up with a plan A and a plan B, Solskjaer gave Rashford and Lukaku the task of playing forward according to the line-up given on livescore.com. The midfield was Andreas Perreira, Fred, McTominay and Ashley Young. Then there were Bailly, Smalling, Lindelof and Dalot at the back to prevent an attack led by Mbappe from creating any chances or even scoring. So, Man United had a 4-4-2 formation going up against PSG’s 4-2-3-1.
Again, it seemed like mission impossible, which was what some football analysts, as well as football fans, were saying. I know that in the minds of most if not all PSG supporters if not all, they were confident that Solskjaer’s players were not going to be able to accomplish their mission of gaining victory over their tough PSG eleven. The PSG manager started with the same eleven for PSG that defeated a better team for United at Old Trafford, but Solskjaer had much confidence that his players would have beaten PSG and I believe that they believed that they could.
I believe that Solskjaer discussed with his players before the match and during half-time how they were going to take down PSG and they stuck with the plan. One of the plans I believe was that Lukaku should play on the shoulder of the 18-yard box and wait on passes from his teammates so that he can attack goal and score, and that plan worked out well. The first goal came as early as the 2nd minute for United- a sign that the Red Devils meant business and was on their way to completing their mission.
Lukaku continued his red-hot form
Lukaku’s goal came as early as the second minute for United- a goal that many PSG fans and their players may not have expected to come so soon. The man in form, the man among the goals for United in its last two matches was able to capitalise off a defensive error to squeeze one in the back of the net after escaping the tackle of the last defender and goalkeeper. Lukaku could have fallen down from the tackle made but he stayed on his feet, went around the goalkeeper and slid the first goal of the match into the back of the net!
Scoring that goal was indeed a great feeling for Lukaku and also for his teammates and Manchester United supporters. Lukaku has made a wonderful resurgence of form and I can say that Solskjaer’s sessions with him have paid off well! Scoring that first goal made it 5 in 2 matches for the Manchester United striker. It was a great attitude by Lukaku- because he had one thing on his mind- he stayed on his feet and then scored the goal.
In the light of that goal scored by Lukaku, however, the possession was being dominated by the French side and even continued throughout the first half.
The second goal came in the 30th minute, which was a bracer to ensure that United stays in the lead and give the fans hope that the team will get the victory that they wanted to qualify for the quarterfinal round. The goal came after a shot from 25 yards by Rashford was blocked by Buffon, but Lukaku was there in the six-yard box to latch onto the rebound and scored. Rashford’s shot was spilt by Buffon but Lukaku ensured that he would make Buffon and PSG pay for it.
Rashford’s penalty gave United the win
In the 90th minute, a shot by Dalot was blocked by Kimpembe (the man who scored the first goal for PSG against United at Old Trafford) with his hand, after turning his back while jumping to block the shot. It was the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) that made the decision after there was an initial decision of a corner. The VAR team contacted the referee and after watching the replay, the penalty was awarded to Man United, which Marcus Rashford took and made no mistake to put that ball past Buffon into the back of the net. Even though Buffon dived the right way, his efforts were not enough to stop Rashford’s shot.
Rashford took the penalty but, some persons may have been wondering why Lukaku didn’t take it and get his hat-trick. But that is a discussion for another topic, and in the end, Manchester won and that is what we are happy about.
Man United overcame PSG convincingly
Despite PSG’s dominance of the game with 71% ball possession to Man United’s 29%, it was the Red Devils who were victorious at the end. Even though the match went up for 10 minutes of injury time, Man United held onto their 3-1 lead and broke the heart of the PSG fans as they saw their players who were the third most favourite team to win the Champions League, go down and dropped out of the competition. On a night which the odds were against Man United’s players, and were in favour of PSG, the Red Devils were able to overcome by doing what was thought to be ‘impossible’.
From the opening goal to the second one after PSG equalised, even up to Rashford scoring the penalty, Man United players were strong and determined to have their mission accomplished. I think it was a very tactical victory for Solskjaer. That was a job well done.
Thank you for reading. If you have any comments or questions to make about the match or about Man United and PSG, please make them in the comments section below, I will greatly appreciate it and I will respond to you as soon as possible. Thank you.