Manchester United created history on Wednesday as they beat PSG 3-1 in the Round of 16 second leg to reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League.
The visitors had it all to do after being beaten 2-0 in the first leg at Old Trafford three weeks ago, and they could not have made a better start to the match. Romelu Lukaku pounced on a poor back pass by Thilo Kehrer before dribbling past Thiago Silva, then rounding off Gianluigi Buffon before scoring from an acute angle.
Manchester United then went into their defensive shape, with PSG hogging all the possession. The hosts though, hit back just ten minutes later as Kylian Mbappe created the chance that saw Les Parisiens come back to level terms in the second leg. The Frenchman’s squared pass evaded all the Manchester United defenders before Juan Bernat latched on to the ball to net the equaliser, catching Eric Bailly flat footed.
PSG continued to dominate the proceedings thereafter, but Manchester United went on to grab the lead once again, this time against the run of play as Marcus Rashford took aim at goal from 30 yards out. However, what should have been a simple save by Buffon instead ended with the ball being spilled, with Lukaku being in the right place at the right time to tap in his and United’s second.
The tie now had a single goal in it and another for the visitors would put them in the driver’s seat. But, the first half ended 2-1 in favour of the Red Devils, with PSG leading the aggregate score 3-2. After the break, Thomas Tuchel’s men remained in control of the game.
The hosts thought they had equalised once again in the 56th minute, when Di Maria dinked the ball over de Gea, only to be pulled back for offside. Thereafter, chances came few and far between, with PSG having the next big chance coming their way in the 83rd minute. But, de Gea first threw Mbappe off before the World Cup winner struck the upright.
But, just when it looked like they had done enough to progress from the Round of 16 by the narrowest of margins, controversy struck. Diogo Dalot’s hopeful shot struck Presnel Kimpembe’s arm and after consulting with VAR, referee Damir Skomina pointed towards the spot.
Marcus Rashford stepped up to take the penalty and made no error in finding the back of the net as Manchester United completed a dramatic comeback that saw them become the first team in Champions League history to qualify for the next round after losing the first leg of a knockout match at home by two or more goals. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men.
David de Gea: 7/10
PSG may have dominated the proceedings, but de Gea had very little to do, with Manchester United defending expertly. Made just one proper save, staying strong to deny Juan Bernat and did enough to throw Kylian Mbappe off in the second leg. Made a bizarre punch with seconds to go but was not punished for it. Could not have done anything to stop Bernat.
Eric Bailly: 3/10
It had initially appeared as if Bailly was starting as part of a back-four, but he was instead deployed as a right-back. The Ivorian just could not settle into the role, showing little positional awareness as he first played Mbappe onside before letting Bernat ghost past him to score PSG’s goal. Troubled to no end by Angel Di Maria before being taken off in the 34th minute.
Chris Smalling: 8/10
Coming off an underwhelming performance against Southampton, Smalling had the daunting task to mark Mbappe. The Englishman though, stuck to his guns, only being outfoxed by the Frenchman when Di Maria thought he had equalised, having been nutmegged by the young striker.
Otherwise, Smalling was nothing short of exemplary, showing a lot of discipline while also denying his marker with a solid block. Performances like this is why he can be one of the most mystifying players in the Manchester United first-team squad.
Victor Lindelof: 9/10
From the good to the very good, Lindelof continued his solid run of form on Wednesday, when he made no errors whatsoever. In fact, his numbers make for a staggering read, with the Swede winning all of his aerial duels in addition to having a 100% tackles won rate.
Victor Lindelöf’s game by numbers vs. PSG:
100% aerial duels won
100% tackles won
92% pass accuracy
Normalising excellence. 🇸🇪❄️ pic.twitter.com/FaZ363IN1U
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) March 6, 2019
With 3 clearances and no fouls conceded, it was a near-perfect outing by the colossal defender without whom the back four is now incomplete.
Luke Shaw: 8/10
Manchester United’s Mr. Consistent lately. Shaw was exemplary in his defensive duties against PSG, marking Dani Alves smartly for the most part before the introduction of Thomas Meunier. The hosts’ dominance meant he could not express himself as much as he likes to in the final third.
But, whenever he did advance forward, Shaw posed a great deal of threat. Vindicating Romelu Lukaku’s claims of him being Manchester United’s Player of the Year so far with each passing game.
Scott McTominay: 8.5/10
One player who has been nothing short of impeccable lately is Scott McTominay. Asked to fill in late for Nemanja Matic against Liverpool, the Manchester United academy graduate has since been superb, and continued his splendid form on Wednesday.
McTominay kept things simple when on the ball, which helped his side retain possession for stretched periods. On the defensive front, the young midfielder was colossal, winning each of the five tackles that he made while also recovering the ball four times. Absolutely bossed the midfield.
It has been a tough maiden campaign for Fred, with game time coming hard to come by under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as well. But, with Paul Pogba suspended, the Brazilian had a golden opportunity to stake claim for a more regular role in the side, and he grabbed it with both hands.
Fred’s game by numbers vs. PSG:
32/39 passes completed
7 ball recoveries
6/6 accurate long balls
3 tackles won
2 fouls won
Showed his UCL experience. 🇧🇷🔥 pic.twitter.com/IdMBtCLwRm
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) March 6, 2019
Fred did start in nervy fashion, with his passing being wasteful. But, once PSG started dominating the game, he grafted along superbly, keeping a check on Marco Verratti’s output, making an astounding seven recoveries. A fantastic performance under pressure that earned the praise of his manager.
Andreas Pereira: 7/10
In a huge contrast to the outing against Southampton, Pereira had a lot more work to the off the ball than on it. While he was sloppy at times, the youngster stayed diligent in his duties, not giving Alves an inch when he was marking the veteran Brazilian. Another convincing outing.
Ashley Young: 7/10
Young started as a winger where he looked quite awkward, particularly while marking Bernat, who he let drift for PSG’s goal. But, once he slotted into the right-back slot, the veteran was surer of his positioning, making an important clearance in the second half. Made way for Mason Greenwood as United went in search for the tie clinching goal.
Romelu Lukaku: 9/10
Romelu Lukaku’s game by numbers vs. PSG:
5 defensive aerial duels won
3 successful take-ons
2 shots on target
“Only scores against small teams” 😂 pic.twitter.com/2ZCfW8c3zs
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) March 6, 2019
A switch has been turned on for Lukaku and how. The Belgian showed tremendous opportunism, pouncing on Thilo Kehrer’s poor back pass before beating Thiago Silva and Gianluigi Buffon for his first. Was then in the right place at the right time to score the simplest of goals during his brilliant run.
Did not see a lot of the ball for the last hour of the game, but he worked incredibly hard to help his side out. The most heartening thing about Lukaku’s performance though, was seeing him slot in as a centre-back deep into injury time as PSG threw bodies forward, making sure the hosts did not score again. A stupendous turnaround.
Marcus Rashford: 7.5/10
Rashford did not exactly enjoy the best of games before he scored the penalty, although he did have a role to play in each of the goals that Lukaku scored. At times, the English international looked off pace while his decision making also left a lot to be desired.
But, when his side needed him to step up and score the tie clinching goal, Rashford made no error, slamming a thumping effort into the back of the net – that was his first ever penalty kick for Manchester United. The man for the big occasion.
Diogo Dalot: 7/10
It was quite surprising that Dalot did not start. But, after the Bailly experiment failed spectacularly, Dalot came on and turned the game on its head for a second time in four days. Posed a huge threat when advancing forward, showing some sleek touch on the ball. Won the penalty that Rashford converted after being the only Manchester United player who appealed for it. A gem at Solskjaer’s disposal.
Tahith Chong: N/A
Introduced in the 80th minute for his Champions League debut, Chong did not see a lot of the ball. Did lose it a couple of times but also showed good awareness to waste time with it late on.
Mason Greenwood: N/A
Greenwood made his Manchester United debut after coming on in the 87th minute, but barely got a touch. However, it was the occasion that he will remember for the rest of his life.