PSG 1-2 Man United: Key Takeaways
Manchester United got the better of Paris Saint-Germain once again on Tuesday night to kick off the 2020/21 Champions League campaign in style.
Bruno Fernandes’ first-half penalty was cancelled out by Anthony Martial’s comical own goal after the break. On what was an off-night for last season’s runners-up though, lightning, in the form of Marcus Rashford, struck twice late on.
The result means United start Group H with a monumental three points, ahead of the remainder of the group stage over the next seven weeks.
Without further ado, take a look at five things we learned at the Parc des Princes.
Solskjaer’s selection spot on
The triumph in Paris was arguably United’s best performance under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer yet, and a lot of that was down to the team selection.
When the squad that travelled to the French capital was revealed, it was fairly obvious the Reds were going to set up in a three-at-the-back system. However, not many would’ve predicted the performance that followed.
The injection of pace provided by Axel Tuanzebe seemed to install calmness into Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw. Whenever Aaron Wan-Bissaka went in for one of his eight tackles on the night, he always had cover. It also suited Alex Telles on his debut, and he looked comfortable throughout because of it.
Telles created three chances in the 67 minutes he was on the pitch, more than anyone else in that time. It bodes well if Solskjaer is looking to use the system more frequently for the rest of the season.
Scott McTominay and Fred, particularly the latter, also replaced Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba impeccably. They won the battle against, admittedly, a PSG midfield that missed Marco Verratti and seriously benefitted United’s counter-attacking style.
Tuanzebe’s outstanding return
If you watched Axel Tuanzebe at the Parc des Princes, the last thing you would’ve thought is that he hasn’t featured for United in 2020.
Tuanzebe was sublime and, for the most part, nullified the undoubted threat Kylian Mbappe posed on goal throughout the game. He won 100% of his aerial duels, maintained a 92% pass accuracy, including a 100% long pass accuracy, recorded seven clearances and only fouled PSG’s tricky attack twice.
It was a performance to behold, regardless of the fact United’s system did, at times, offer added protection. With Harry Maguire missing in midweek through injury, Tuanzebe could be in with a serious shout of starting against Chelsea this weekend.
Martial’s Champions League struggles
It wasn’t exactly a horrendous display from Anthony Martial against PSG, but just somewhat ineffective. Martial’s now scored just four goals in 29 Champions League appearances, 22 of them coming at United, and offered a minimal amount of threat again last night.
He fired his two shots off target, won just 43% of his ground duels and lost possession 12 times. Although he won the penalty in the first half, his own goal screamed a lack of discipline. Closing your eyes when defending a corner is never going to end well.
It seems strange to focus on a negative after such a good result, but Martial’s continued struggles in Europe’s elite competition are glaringly obvious.
He’ll be back in to face RB Leipzig next week though. Considering he’ll be fully rested with his domestic suspension ongoing; supporters will be hoping to see a more motivated Martial at Old Trafford.
Dr Marcus Rashford MBE
Dr Marcus Rashford MBE. Hero to the millions off the pitch, hero to the millions on it.
PSG must be absolute sick of Rashford. He squandered a few really good opportunities during the match, most notably a two-on-one early in the second half, but he came up trumps late on with an absolutely scintillating finish.
Following his star performance in last weekend’s win at Newcastle, he was once again an absolute menace against what seemed like a seriously vulnerable PSG defence.
Rashford fired four shots on goal, three of them on target, as well as completing two take-ons, making one key pass and maintaining a 77.3% pass accuracy. He looked to be United’s primary outlet on the counter and for the most part, showed up again.
The Marc des Princes has a certain ring to it.
United can qualify
When the draw for Group H was completed earlier in the month, it was pretty clear that United had been placed inside the ‘Group of Death’.
PSG posed as the biggest threat for obvious reasons; they were in the Champions League final a couple of months ago. Then, Leipzig were thrown in to add last season’s Champions League semi-finalists to the mix.
A trip to Istanbul isn’t exactly enticing either, but United’s performance and result at the home of PSG proves that you can’t sleep on this team’s quality.
Perhaps it’ll be more difficult at home in front of no fans, as fans have already seen this season, but there’s no reason why United can’t build on last night and produce a great showing in the group stage.
The counter-attacking style implemented in Paris seems to work wonders against the tougher sides more often than not. With that being said, Solskjaer could be tempted to utilise it again this weekend, and when Leipzig visit Old Trafford next week too.
This was a confident-booster of a triumph, and a result that could start a successful European campaign.