Manchester United returned to the scene of their biggest win under Ole Gunnar Solskjær and did it again as another late Marcus Rashford goal gave the Reds a 2-1 win in Paris.
United took the lead in the first half from the penalty spot, after Anthony Martial was brought down by Abdou Diallo. Bruno Fernandes stepped up and saw his initial penalty saved by Keylor Navas, but the referee ordered a retake after VAR declared that the goalkeeper had come off his line. Fernandes stepped up again and put the penalty in the same place, this time sending Navas the wrong way.
As the game continued, Manchester United had chances to extend their lead while PSG struggled to break down a side that has already conceded 12 goals in the Premier League so far this season. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Axel Tuanzebe turned in monstrous performances to shut Neymar and Kylian Mbappe out for the most part, while PSG’s midfield struggled to create anything from deep.
The Parisians got their break early in the second half when a corner from Neymar was inadvertently headed into his own goal by striker Anthony Martial, and PSG were on top at that point. Ole then changed the formation, bringing on Paul Pogba for debutant Alex Telles and switched to a back-four which caused United to start creating chances once again. Paul Pogba created three chances in 23 minutes, a match high, including the assist for Marcus Rashford’s winner. A short pass on the edge of the box from Pogba saw Rashford control the ball, shift it past Danilo Pereira and then slam a strike in off the far post.
It was nothing less than Manchester United deserved from their performance on the night, where they created the better chances and outright flattened the attacking oomph that PSG possessed in their front three.
Credit has to go to Ole Gunnar Solskjær for the performance too. I’ve been critical of the Norwegian in the past and recently too, especially after the 6-1 humbling by Tottenham Hotspur. He got the team selection and tactics spot on in this game though.
With Harry Maguire and Eric Bailly out injured, Axel Tuanzebe made his first appearance in 10 months alongside Victor Lindelof in central defence with Luke Shaw as the third centre-back. We saw on several occasions last year that Shaw played that role extremely well and he continued to impress there in this fixture too. Alex Telles and Wan-Bissaka were excellent at both ends of the pitch while Fred did what he does best and didn’t stop throughout the entire game. Scott McTominay struggled a lot in the first half, with Neymar running at him directly and misplacing lots of passes but he improved greatly in the second half.
Ole’s set up allowed United to be solid defensively against a side with world class attackers but little creativity elsewhere on the pitch. He didn’t allow them to isolate his defenders in one on one situations regularly and whenever it did happen, they responded perfectly and dealt with the situation. It also allowed the three attacking players freedom to stay high up the pitch and counter attack.
Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes didn’t see as much of the ball as they would have liked to in an ideal world, but between them they were involved in everything good going forward the side did. United were comfortably the better side over the 90 minutes of football and better decision making almost certainly would have seen them score at least one more goal on the night.
It’s a set up that is easily adjusted when coming up against teams that won’t look to be as attack minded as PSG usually are, with the inclusion of Paul Pogba or Donny Van De Beek into the central midfield positions ahead of McTominay or Fred – or potentially even both. It also allows the attackers to play in closer proximity to each other and link up more often, while also getting them closer to goal.
The addition of Edinson Cavani to the squad will also add to the argument that this formation could potentially be the best choice for the side too. The extra protection in defence helps to cover for the issues United have in central defence, while it also takes away from the lack of wing options that are of sufficient quality at the club currently.
It’s a fantastic result for the club, for the players, for the fans and most importantly for Ole Gunnar Solskjær. Roll on Chelsea on Saturday.