Thursday 7 March 2019 7:37 am

Paris Saint-Germain 1-3 Manchester United: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer leads youthful side to Champions League history

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can do no wrong. The man with the golden touch has turned his gift to just about everything since taking over in December, but even by his standards this was special.

When he said “it’s never mission impossible” before the game you’d be forgiven for thinking it was just bluster. But he clearly believed it – and he backed up his claim by making Manchester United the first club in 35 attempts to reach the next round of the Champions League after losing the first leg of a knockout match at home by two or more goals.

Read more: Solksjaer out to show he's more than a managerial super-sub


United, shorn of 10 first team players through injury and suspension and with five teenagers on the bench, inflicted just PSG’s second defeat in their last 17 home games in the competition and extended a club record to make it nine successive away wins.

What a way to do it. And what a way to surely secure your dream job on a full-time basis.

Razor-sharp Lukaku

Up against the same XI they lost 2-0 in the first leg, a makeshift United would have been expecting to see little of the ball. They were right – a total of 28 per cent possession shows their game-plan.

But they also would have known they had a proficient counter-attacking unit and two in-form strikers to call upon.

Romelu Lukaku had scored two goals in each of his previous two games against Crystal Palace and Southampton and once again he looked razor sharp in scoring two more at the Parc des Princes.

Thilo Kehrer’s sloppy pass was seized upon, Gianluigi Buffon was rounded and the ball was in the back of the net within two minutes.


However, Eric Bailly’s awkwardness at the unfamiliar position of right-back was exploited as Kylian Mbappe crossed for the unmarked Juan Bernat to make it 1-1 soon after.

PSG had a sustained period of pressure, with Mbappe, Angel Di Maria and Julian Draxler bright, but United, led by the exceptional Chris Smalling, simply wouldn’t give in.

Marcus Rashford took on a dipping shot from distance and when Buffon couldn’t hold on Lukaku was there to pounce on the rebound and make it 2-1.

Solskjaer then recognised the problem with Bailly and brought on Diogo Dalot, pushing the experienced Ashley Young to right-back to quell the threat of Bernat.

Despite still holding a narrow lead on aggregate and seeing nearly all of the ball, PSG looked nervy.

Flashbacks

Thomas Tuchel may not have been the manager then, but he will have been acutely aware of the mental scars his PSG side have from the events of 8 March 2017.

The French champions went to the Camp Nou with a 4-0 lead in the round of 16, but in a stunning climax Neymar’s two goals and Sergi Roberto’s 95th-minute volley sealed a 6-1 win and a ridiculous turnaround to see Barca through 6-5 on aggregate.

Two years later they were suffering flashbacks in Paris, albeit through a different medium of pain.

While it was Neymar who inspired Barcelona’s miracle, it was the video assistant referee who provided United and Rashford with their moment of ecstasy.

When Dalot’s long-shot cannoned off Presnel Kimpembe for a corner kick thoughts quickly turned to the resulting set piece as United searched for the goal they needed.

But the call came from VAR and referee Damir Skomina was summoned to take a look: the ball had struck Kimpembe’s arm and after minutes of agitation a penalty was awarded.

Read more: Relegation battle is a two-way fight between Southampton and Cardiff

Rashford, despite never having taken a penalty for United, was the man to send the away fans into raptures and inflict a cruel end of the hosts, blasting confidently past Buffon – a man of double his age and more than double his experience of such pressure situations.

Such a result could hardly have been imagined when the draw was made, but Solskjaer’s relentless positivity, tactical acumen and all-round Midas Touch meant he, his staff and his players believed.

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