PSG divide United into two

February 12, 2019
Dani Alves rises highest as PSG players mob Kylian Mbappé after he put their team 2-0 up at Manchester United in their Champions League last-16 1st leg

Dani Alves rises highest as PSG players mob Kylian Mbappé after he put their team 2-0 up at Manchester United in their Champions League last-16 1st leg.

For Manchester United, perhaps it was a reality check, a reminder of their imperfections and how tough it an be at the highest level of European football. This was the night Ole Gunnar Solskjær could not find any of the precious magic that has seen him pass every other test with distinction. Outscored, outpassed and outsung – they were well beaten and it will need something truly remarkable if they can save themselves at Parc des Princes in three weeks’ time.

Unfortunately for Solskjaer, who could really see them pulling off that kind of escapology act on the evidence of this tie? Paris Saint-Germain took a while to realise they were the superior side but once the penny dropped, the imbalance throughout the second half was considerable, culminating in Paul Pogba’s late red card for his second bookable challenge.

The goals arrived in a seven-minute spell, first from Presnel Kimpembe and then Kylian Mbappé, and there were parts of the second half when the soundtrack was provided by “olés” from the away end

After a difficult start, Angel Di María had an influence on both goals against his former club. Mbappé’s goal was a demonstration of his rare gifts, contrasting sharply with Marcus Rashford’s ineffectiveness at the other end, and it was unusual, strange even, to see United looking so passive after everything that has improved under Solskjaer’s tenure. United might be better in the second leg, but so might PSG on their owen ground, with the backing of their vociferous fans.

Ligue 1’s leaders had accumulated 101 goals from their previous 34 games this season. Yes, the absence of Edinson Cavani and Neymar in particular was bound to be a debilitating setback. Yet a front three of Kylian Mbappé flanked by Ángel Di María and Julian Draxler still posed its own threats and it was surprising at times that, until the second half, the away team did not attack with more urgency and directness.

Mbappé had, after all, demonstrated with one jet-heeled burst of pace in the first half that he would have no trouble out-sprinting Victor Lindelöf. Or, indeed, any player in a red shirt, even with a head start. The issue for PSG was whether they could find the right pass to exploit that phenomenal speed and on the one occasion that happened in the first half Mbappé went wide of David de Gea but could not get his shot on target.

Otherwise, it was strange to see a team with PSG’s reputation being so lax with their final pass once they had put together an encouraging move. Mbappé flickered only sporadically and there were parts of the match when Di María’s occasional carelessness must have reminded the home crowd about some of Argentinian’s more undistinguished performances in United’s colours during the Louis van Gaal era.

This was the first time, perhaps surprisingly, that Gianluigi Buffon has ever faced United at Old Trafford throughout his long career but apart from a beautiful piece of footwork from Paul Pogba to elude Presnel Kimpembe, the home team struggling to create any real openings during the opening 45 minutes. Jesse Lingard had to go off with a hamstring injury towards the end of the half and Martial’s night was also ended prematurely, coming off at the interval because of a muscular problem. Alexis Sánchez came on for Lingard, with Juan Mata replacing Martial, and that meant United losing some of their speed on the counterattack.

The most revealing statistic at half-time, with only five efforts at goal, was that no other game in this season’s Champions League has had fewer first-half shots. Solskjaer must have dearly wanted an improvement from his side after the restart but it was the French champions who began brightly, culminating in the goal from Kempembe to put them in command.

Presnel Kimpembe puts PSG 1-0 ahead at Manchester United
Presnel Kimpembe puts PSG 1-0 ahead at Manchester United

By that stage an argument could be made that Kempembe should no longer have been on the pitch. He had already been booked for a challenge on Martial but the Italian referee, Daniele Orsato, had given him the benefit of the doubt after another challenge on Lingard and then one on Marcus Rashford, both of which could have warranted a second yellow card.

Kempembe made the most of his fortune after De Gea had turned Mbappe’s downward header around his post for a corner. Di María swung the ball over and perhaps Nemanja Matic thought De Gea was coming to collect the ball. He wasn’t – and Kempembe’s volley flew into the roof of the net.

After that, PSG went for the kill. On the hour mark, the ball went forward through Juan Bernat and Di Maria again. The ball into the centre was weighted perfectly and Mbappe had the speed and determination to get between Lindelof and Eric Bailly to apply the decisive touch.

Manchester United’s Paul Pogba is sent off at the end of their 2-0 defeat by PSG
Manchester United’s Paul Pogba is sent off at the end of their 2-0 defeat by PSG


Man Utd

  • 1 de Gea
  • 18 Young
  • 3 Bailly
  • 2 Lindelof
  • 23 Shaw
  • 21 Ander Herrera
  • 31 Matic
  • 6 Pogba
  • 14 Lingard
  • 11 Martial
  • 10 Rashford


  • 22 Romero
  • 4 Jones
  • 7 Sanchez (s 45′)
  • 8 Mata (s 46′)
  • 9 Lukaku (s 84′)
  • 17 Fred
  • 20 Dalot


  • 1 Buffon
  • 4 Kehrer
  • 2 Thiago Silva
  • 3 Kimpembe
  • 14 Bernat
  • 6 Verratti
  • 5 Marquinhos
  • 13 Dani Alves
  • 23 Draxler
  • 11 Di Maria
  • 7 Mbappe-Lottin


  • 16 Areola
  • 8 Paredes (s 75′)
  • 17 Choupo-Moting
  • 20 Kurzawa
  • 24 Nkunku
  • 27 Diaby
  • 31 Dagba (s 81′)


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