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PSG 1-3 Manchester United: 5 men who were brilliant for Solskjaer

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
Deepungsu Pandit

Manchester United fans will not forget this night in a hurry. Down and defeated by a superior side in the first leg, United were looking at a certain exit from the UEFA Champions League. It was impossible to overturn a 2 goal deficit in an away match, it had never been done before. Yet, Solskjaer relished these kinds of challenges, because nights like these define Manchester United.

The road was not easy. Paul Pogba's suspension made things pretty complicated. Injuries to 4 other first-team members made it seem like an unassailable dream. United were missing their first-choice midfield and all of their creative outlets in the team.

Solskjaer had maintained that he would have no problems putting a strong team out and he seemed relaxed and confident. Perhaps he knew the abilities of his team and maybe that put the belief in him that this was possible.

United had a dream start to the game, scoring through Lukaku in the 2nd minute. PSG got one back through Bernat in the 12th before the Belgian scored again in the 30th. The score remained the same until the last moments of the game, when United won a penalty, via VAR and Rashford slammed the ball home.

Manchester United had done the impossible, they had qualified for the Quarter Finals when no one had given them a chance. While every player played their heart out on the pitch, there were a few who rose above the rest and inspired the team on the night.

Today, we take a look at the 5 men who won the battle for their Norwegian manager and sent United to the next round.


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#5 Fred

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

The Brazilian got a chance to impress his boss because United missed all three of their first choice midfielders. Fred had done little of note since making the move in the summer and was a part of a handful of players who had failed to click under Solskjaer. As such, Wednesday night against PSG was arguably his last chance to impress his boss and the Brazilian did a pretty good job of it.

Fred took some time to get off the mark, as is the case with players who are short of confidence. However, he grew in stature with every passing minute and was soon busy as a bee.

He held the fort with McTominay in the center of the park and complemented the youngster well. Fred ensured that Marquinhos and Verratti did not get into dangerous positions and instead, had to do most of their work from a deeper area. It unsettled the PSG team, and allowed United to stay in the game.

While he was not world class, Fred was decent with his passing and moved the ball well. He kept things simple and that helped United stay compact in the midfield, on the night.

#4 Scott McTominay

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

The youngster was so good that at times it appeared that Nemanja Matic was back on the field. McTominay had Fred and Andreas Pereira for company, however, since Pereira mostly operated from the left side, it was left to McTominay to marshall the midfield and shield his back four. After weathering the initial storm, the youngster found his footing in the game and never let go of the reins of the midfield on the night.

He paid close attention to Marquinhos and also helped Fred deal with Verratti. When Draxler looked close to making something happen, McTominay was on his heels as well. He tackled with supreme efficiency, pressed with fabulous intent and looked like a man on a mission.

When the situation demanded, McTominay also showed great maturity that was missing from United in the first leg. He won tackles, stayed on the ground to break the passage of play and ensured that PSG got a taste of their own medicine.

The Scottish International was the pick of the midfielders on the night and built the foundation for a fantastic comeback by winning the midfield battle.

#3 Diogo Dalot

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

Solskjaer perhaps got his team selection wrong in the first place, opting for Eric Bailly as the right back on the night. The Norwegian had hoped that the Ivorian’s big frame and speed would be a handful for the PSG attack, but in reality, Bailly had a night to forget. He looked like a central defender playing at right back, always tucking inside, giving the opposition all the room in the world. It was his failure to track Bernat that helped PSG get a goal.

Solskjaer noticed this early and immediately brought on Dalot in Bailly's place to stabilize the defense. And the young Portuguese rose to the occasion. Dalot stationed himself near the touchline, ensuring that PSG never found that space again. His speed and technical ability immediately made an impact on the game and with a little bit of composure, Dalot could have picked up an assist in the final moments of the first half.

However, the Portuguese was about to have his moment soon. After successfully keeping the PSG attack at bay, United went for the kill in the dying moments of the game. Dalot ran forward, and hit a thunderous volley which was blocked by Kimpembe with his hand. VAR awarded a penalty, United scored through Rashford and the comeback was complete.

#2 Marcus Rashford

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

The English youngster was the only first-choice attacking player in the team on the night and as such, Rashford had a lot of expectations on his shoulders. However, he had a thankless job and suffered from the lack of creative midfielders in the team.

But the sign of great players is that even when the odds are against them, they rise to provide that moment of inspiration that binds the team and lifts them up. United’s young striker did just that against PSG at Paris.

He was full of running and pressing in the final third, but it was his belief in himself that brought United back into the game. PSG had levelled through Bernat and the away team were lacking inspiration.

United ventured forward in search of a breakthrough, and on one such occasion, Rashford found himself on the ball at least 30 yards away from the goal. Any other player would have passed the ball, but the youngster backed himself and took a thunderous shot on goal. The ball dipped, causing Buffon to spill it and Lukaku was there to tuck in the rebound.

His greatest moment came in the dying moments of the game. He stepped up to take the penalty kick with the weight of the whole world on him. There was a self-belief about him that refused to be defeated. Buffon dived to the right as Rashford put the ball into the net and sent United through.

#1 Romelu Lukaku

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

The Belgian came into the game with 2 back to back braces in the last 2 games. In the absence of big names like Martial and Pogba, Lukaku had stepped up as the source of goals for United in recent times. As such, fans and players were counting on him once again to get United through and what the Belgian achieved on the night would have surely etched his name in gold in United folklore.

Within 2 minutes, United were ahead, thanks to Lukaku’s alertness and desire. He stayed close to Thiago Silva right from the start and tracked a miss pass to get through on goal. There was still a lot to do, as he had to shrug off a tackle from the PSG Skipper and also deal with the onrushing Buffon. Lukaku did both with uncanny calmness and slotted the ball home. It was just the shot in the arm the away team needed.

When PSG levelled the score on the night through Bernat, Lukaku was needed again. He showed his anticipation once more, reacting the quickest to Rashford’s strike. As Buffon parried the ball, Lukaku was on his case in a flash and scored once again. He picked up his third brace in three games, but then had the bigheartedness to give the ball to a composed Marcus Rashford to score the third goal from the spot.

When PSG threw the kitchen sink at United in the never-ending injury time at the end of the game, the Belgian stationed himself in the defense, fighting to take United through. No wonder United fans are in love with him right now.

Edited by Arvind Sriram

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