With their backs against the Champions League wall, Manchester United face Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday. Overturning the 2-0 deficit will be no easy feat, especially considering the club’s current injury situation and Paul Pogba’s suspension.
Still, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists that there’s plenty of belief among his squad. “We go into every game with confidence and belief and we will do the same against PSG on Wednesday. We know it is an uphill task, but we can do it. It has happened before.”
“This club has had so many great comebacks. We’ve got eight straight [away] wins, confidence is high, and if we are still in the game with 20 minutes to go, who knows?”
Even if the odds remain long in Paris, Solskjaer’s right about the club’s confidence. His Reds are still buzzing after a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Southampton at the weekend. The Saints took an early lead, but a wonder-goal off the foot of Andreas Pereira pulled United level in the 53rd minute.
And Romelu Lukaku continued his strong play by twice scoring the go-ahead goal in the second half. With Marcus Rashford just back from injury and cooling off a bit (no goals in over a month), this is the perfect time for Lukaku to hit his stride.
The 3-2 win moves Manchester United into sole possession of fourth place, setting up a furious battle for the Champions League places in the coming weeks. Chelsea seem to have overcome the Kepa-Sarri drama with two straight league victories, while Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal both dropped points this weekend. That means just five points separate these sides with only two CL spots still up for grabs.
But Saturday wasn’t all good news for United. Alexis Sánchez suffered an injury to his knee ligaments and looks set for a spell on the sidelines. No official word from the club yet, but some early reports suggest Alexis will be out for 6-8 weeks.
United won’t be getting back any of their other injured players, either. With Paul Pogba suspended — and Nemanja Matić and Ander Herrera still out — Solskjaer will be missing his entire first-choice midfield. Scott McTominay, Andreas Pereira, and Fred might be his only choice.
And, with Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, and Alexis out too, the frontline doesn’t look much better. Diogo Dalot impressed in an advanced position this weekend, so don’t be surprised if he’s back there on Wednesday. Lukaku and Rashford are sure starters, but Solskjaer doesn’t have many other options right now.
PSG, too, are juggling injuries. Neymar and Edinson Cavani remain out for the Parisians — although they didn’t seem to miss them last month at Old Trafford. Kylian Mbappé utterly wrecked United’s defense, while Marco Verratti and Angel Di Maria both produced plenty of dangerous chances. It says a lot about PSG’s quality that missing two world-class stars barely impacted their performance.
Leading into the first leg, there was some thought that PSG were stumbling. Not anymore. In their last five matches, they’ve won them all while allowing only two goals. In that time, they’ve outscored their opponents 14-2. PSG’s lead in Ligue 1 stands at a commanding 17 points, allowing them to turn their full attention to the Champions League.
That showed a bit this weekend. Thomas Tuchel’s side scrapped their way to a 2-1 win at lowly Caen on Saturday. After falling behind, Mbappé bailed his club out with a second-half brace. That makes six goals for the 20-year-old since the first United match, pushing his season total to 29(!). There’s just no stopping him.
But Tuchel’s not taking anything for granted. “It’s important to win before a game like the one that awaits us against Manchester,” he said after the Caen comeback.
Mbappé agreed. “The coach insisted on winning this match to prepare for the visit of Manchester. That’s what we did. We will come home, rest, and prepare well for the important match which awaits us on Wednesday.”
This might be the end of Manchester United’s Champions League run this season, but few gave the Reds much of a chance at Juventus and we all saw how that turned out.
But, at minimum, it will take victory by a two-goal margin. 2-0 sends the tie to extra-time, while any other two-goal win (3-1, 4-2, etc.) would send the Reds through to the quarterfinals on away goals. It’s a lot to ask — and PSG looked nigh unbeatable last month at Old Trafford — but Solskjaer’s got his players believing that anything is possible.