Manchester United succumbed to a disappointing 2-0 defeat at home to Paris Saint-Germain in the opening leg of their Champions League first knockout round tie on Tuesday. After a promising first half, the Reds were outclassed in the second, as Ole Gunnar Solskjær suffered his first defeat since taking charge as manager.
The first half was a disjointed, fractious affair, in which yellow cards outnumbered shots on target by five to one. The best early chances were United’s, with Gianluigi Buffon called into action twice in the opening exchanges. The first came when he had to tip a deflected Marcus Rashford cross around the post; the second when he pounced at the near post to prevent Paul Pogba’s driven cross being bundled home.
However, the only real clear-cut chance of the opening period fell at the other end, when a first-time Julian Draxler pass sent Kylian Mbappé through on goal, though the Frenchman shanked wide from close range.
The interval was bookended by two premature United changes, as Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial both limped off injured. Alexis Sánchez and Juan Mata were thrown on in their stead, as Solskjær was forced into reshuffling the pack. It presaged a miserable second half for United.
PSG started ominously well, though the manner in which they took the lead eight minutes after the restart would surely have upset Solskjær. A corner from Ángel di María looped towards the far post, at which Presnel Kimpembe arrived to smash home after slipping free of Nemanja Matić.
By the hour, it was two. United bête noire Di María was again involved, surging into space on the counter-attack before laying a perfect low ball on for Mbappé to tap home. United looked at risk of total collapse, and within moments it could’ve been three: only the outstretched arms of David de Gea prevented the Frenchman from scoring his second in quick succession.
Having looked shaky in the first half, PSG showed their class in the second. Thomas Tuchel’s side were in cruise control, dishing out a harsh reminder that no amount of Solskjær paper can cover the gaping chasm that exists between United and Europe’s elite. Just staying in the tie looked a tough task with half-an-hour left on the clock.
United managed to regain some composure, though struggled to carry it into the final third. Too often they resorted to long-range shots or deep crosses, easily gobbled up by the visitors’ impressive back line. Things went from bad to worse in the dying minutes, when Pogba was harshly sent off for a second bookable offence. Suffice to say, United have a huge mountain to climb in Paris next month.