Champions League 2018-2019: Manchester United VS PSG preview
When the Champions League round of 16 draw was made in December, Jose Mourinho was the manager of Manchester United and Neymar was in inspiring form for Paris Saint-Germain. However, when the two teams meet for their Champions League knock out fixture in February, Mourinho won't be in the United dugout and Neymar will also be absent for the tie.
Mourinho's time at Manchester United came to an end after Ed Woodard pulled the plug on the Portuguese manager after two and a half years at the club.
Under the "special one" Manchester United had become toxic both on and off the field and to the relief of many Manchester United supporters, the club hired Champions League-winning hero Ole Gunnar Solskjær to navigate the ship until season's end.
Since then the Red Devils are unbeaten in Solskjaer's 11 games in charge including victories against fellow Premier League top 6 teams Arsenal and Tottenham. Under the Norwegian, United is a far more attacking beast with each player in the squad looking like they have been given a new lease of life in Manchester.
For PSG, Neymar who already has 20 goals this season including a hattrick during the group stages of the Champions League has reportedly sustained a foot injury that would keep the flamboyant Brazilian inactive for around 10 weeks. Neymar also missed last season's round of 16 clash against Real Madrid would be gutted that he won't be able again to assist in PSG's elusive pursuit of European glory.
When PSG made Neymar the most expensive signing in football history it probably was with the expectation that he would be able to help with fixtures like these. Without Neymar, the French champions have already shown their vulnerability relinquishing their unbeaten league record against Lyon.
When the draw was first made PSG seemed overwhelming favourites for this clash but with no Mourinho and no Neymar, we can expect a much tighter encounter for this clash of European giants, a clash that has new school vs old school feel.
Predicted Line-up: Manchester United
With no suspensions for the tie against PSG, we can expect United to go full strength. Ole attended Paris' defeat to Lyon and should be buoyed at how easily former Manchester United player Memphis and his teammates got their way. Alexis Sanchez's experience might be used but the Chilean still has not found his best form at United. Belgium's all-time leading goal scorer Romelu Lukaku can be a handful for any defence on his day and Ole may opt to use his strength for this fixture. Juan Mata's free kick in the group stage was crucial to United advancing and his quality can always cause problems. Phil Jones has been Lindelof's most frequently used centre defender partner and could get the call vs Paris over the two legs.
Goals(all season)- Paul Pogba 13, Anthony Martial 11, Marcus Rashford 10
Key Player- Paul Pogba - Manchester United's leading goal scorer and leading assist maker will have to have a big game if Manchester United are to advance. Pogba will relish playing against his city club and a team he is almost permanently linked too.
Predicted Line-up: PSG
PSG sans Neymar might just provide a platform for former Manchester United and Brtish record signing Angel Di Maria to take centre stage. Di Maria a former Champions League champion with Real Madrid is a still a quality attacker in his own right and could bury some career demons over the two legs. Kylian Mbappe and Cavani have both been on red hot form all season and even though their partner in crime will be out their quality cannot be overlooked. Cavani, however, after a late injury looks certain to miss at least the first leg. In his place could be Eric Choupo Moting. Although relegated last season with Stoke, Moting still registered a couple of goal against Manchester United.
There is an abundance of experience in the back with Brazilian trio Marquinhos, Thiago Silva and Dani Alves having over 200 international caps between them. Young defenders Kimpembe and Kehrer have been trusted by Tuchel a lot this season and with good reason, both players have exceptional potential and their pace would be needed against United's speedy frontline. New signing Leandro Paredes could also be given a starting role if Veratti does not recover from his recent injury in time. At the back of it all is the legend Buffon who at 41 years old is still seeking his first Champions League title.
Goals (all season)- Kylian Mbappe 22, Edinson Cavani 22, Neymar 20
Key Player - Kylian Mbappe, the responsibility of the 20-year-old World Cup winner now increases with Neymar and Cavani being out. The golden boy of world football always loves a challenge and a battle against a sometimes unconvincing Manchester United defence is a matchup he might be looking forward to.