Champions League 2018-19: 4 reasons why Manchester United eliminated PSG

Solskjaer celebrates United's great comeback
Solskjaer celebrates United's great comeback

Manchester United completed one of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history as they overturned a 2-0 first leg deficit to triumph 3-1 away at the Parc des Princes last night.

The Red Devils have seen a massive upturn in fortunes since the appointment of Ole Gunner Solskjaer, but not many gave them much of a chance heading into the fixture against Paris Saint-Germain, owing to their lengthy injury list and suspensions which ensured the English giants went to France with a depleted squad.

However, in remarkable scenes, Marcus Rashford held his nerves to convert an injury-time VAR awarded penalty to send United to the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2014. On the other hand, PSG were knocked out of the Round of 16 of the competition for the third straight season. In this piece, we shall be taking a look at four factors which made the 'remontada' possible.

#4 United's newfound belief under Solskjaer

Manchester United has been reborn under Ole Solksjaer
Manchester United has been reborn under Ole Solksjaer

It seems like distant times right now, but barely three months ago, Manchester United were in real danger of seeing their season descend into chaos as under Mourinho, the club dipped to all-time lows, with off-field clashes with players and negativity the order of the day at Old Trafford.

The 3-1 loss to Liverpool last December proved to be the breaking point and Mourinho was relieved of his duties, with the club 12 points off a top 4 spot and multiple players suffering an alarming drop in form.

However, since the appointment of Solksjaer, the tides have turned at Old Trafford as United have become one of the form teams in Europe and have battled their way back into contention for a top 4 finish.

Players have rediscovered their form under the Norwegian, which has invariably installed a new sense of belief into the fans and players alike.

United are unbeaten in 12 matches under Solskjaer in the Premier League, with two of those being comebacks against Burnley and Southampton, while their only defeat in 15 matches since he took charge came in the first leg reversal to PSG in the Champions League.

Indeed, if the Premier League started when Solskjaer took over at United, the Red Devils would be five points clear at the top of the table and the only unbeaten team in the league after 12 matches.

This new form has given the club an unshakable belief in themselves, playing with confidence and with pride at representing the United shirt.

This new found belief has given the players the confidence to go all out regardless of the situation or opponents they find themselves against and despite having nine first-team players out due to injury and suspension, it was this unshakable belief in their abilities which saw them through against PSG.

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#3 Buffon's error

Manchester United v Paris Saint-Germain - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg
Manchester United v Paris Saint-Germain - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg

Gianluigi Buffon has distinguished himself as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, with his displays between the sticks for the Italian national team and Juventus.

After 17 long years of distinguished service with the Bianconeri, the 41-year-old switched allegiance to the Parisian giants in the hope of winning the one trophy he is yet to lay his hands on in his long and distinguished career - the Champions League.

For all of Buffon's greatness, however, he is not immune from the occasional error or two associated with goalkeepers and his infallibility came to the fore in the match against Manchester United.

PSG had done well to level themselves in the tie in the 12th minute through Juan Bernat after United had gone ahead in the 2nd minute of play, but just 18 minutes later, they found themselves behind once more, courtesy an uncharacteristic Buffon error.

Rashford took a speculative shot from 25 yards out which the veteran shot-stopper was expected to stop, but in shocking scenes, Buffon parried the ball right into the path of Romelu Lukau, who made no mistake from five yards out.

The goal meant that PSG's away goal advantage had been wiped out and put them very much on the backfoot, which might not have been the case if Buffon had not committed such a ghastly error in such a crucial time.

#2 PSG's penchant for capitulation

Paris Saint-Germain v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg
Paris Saint-Germain v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg

Since their acquisition by Qatar Sports Investment in 2011, PSG have seen a massive transformation in their status, going from an average club in France to becoming the domestic giants as well as one of the biggest clubs in all of Europe.

Billions of Euros have been spent on player recruitment in a bid to make the club more competitive and while total domination of French football has been achieved, the club are yet to translate that into the European scene.

They currently boast the two most expensive players of all time within their ranks but are yet to make it to the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Holding a first leg 2-0 lead, the French giants were expected to finish the job off at home, but they failed to do so (becoming the first side to be eliminated after a 2-0 away lead in the Champions League era) and more worryingly, it followed the trend of them capitulating in the grand stages.

No one would forget in a hurry how PSG blew a 4-0 first-leg advantage over Barcelona by losing 6-1 at the Camp Nou a few weeks later in March 2017 to spark crazy scenes around the world.

While that match may have set in motion the events which prompted Neymar's record-breaking arrival in Paris, the impact sought from the Brazilian has yet to be witnessed as the club still finds themselves struggling when it really matters the most.

Despite their impressive first-leg result, there was always the belief that the club would fold under pressure as they have done in the past, and ultimately, these fears came to fruition.

#1 Key absences for PSG

Neymar has been ruled out due to injury for the last few months
Neymar has been ruled out due to injury for the last few months

PSG have been without two-thirds of their fabled attacking trio for the last few months as Edinson Cavani and Neymar Jr have been ruled out due to injuries, leaving young sensation Kylian Mbappe as the sole tormentor-in-chief of their strike force.

Both Neymar and Cavani are among the best forwards in the world and while Mbappe more than held his own in the first leg, their absences were sorely felt in the second leg as United put up a masterful tactical display.

On an evening where The Red Devils were content to form a tight block at the back and catch PSG on the counter, the French side would really have done with the penetrative services of Neymar as well as the finishing abilities of Cavani.

Although the Uruguayan was fit enough to make the bench, he could come in when the damage had been done.

Although Manchester United also had their own injury worries, none of the unavailable players could be said to be as influential as Neymar and Cavani (barring Pogba may be) and ultimately, this played a part in Manchester United's progression to the quarter-finals of the Champions League at the expense of PSG.

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Edited by Samya Majumdar
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