Rash tango in Paris: Solskjaer delivers best game yet as Man Utd stun PSG again

By Sports Desk October 20, 2020

Manchester United should not have beaten Paris Saint-Germain two seasons ago.

That miraculous comeback by that youthful side was resilient, spirited, but lucky – a result born of mindset rather than tactics from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, where 28 per cent of the ball and four shots on target somehow became a 3-1 win.

On Tuesday, when Marcus Rashford blasted home his second winning goal at Parc des Princes in as many visits, there was no great sense of incredulity, no vilifying of VAR; this time, Neymar's look of astonishment was aimed at his team's listless display, not at the officials from up in the stands.

That game in March 2019 may have got Solskjaer the permanent job, but this one showed what is expected, what is demanded of a United manager: going to Europe's elite and cowing them. His tiger-print-clad charges really earned their stripes.

PSG have their problems and that was laid bare in a sodden French capital. A midfield without Marco Verratti could not dictate; a defence without Marquinhos could not contain. Thomas Tuchel has already aired his grievances with sporting director Leonardo in public over their transfers and, after that performance, that relationship is unlikely to get any easier.

But that should not detract from United's success. That 6-1 humiliation to Tottenham two weeks ago suggested Solskjaer is a man without a plan, and with no players prepared to execute it even if he did. This will have driven some of the wolves from the door.

Solskjaer has often gone with a back three against stronger opponents who are expected to have more of the ball, but nobody will have expected Luke Shaw, Victor Lindelof and Axel Tuanzebe – whose only previous appearance in this competition was nearly three years ago – to play like this.

Tuanzebe, with seven clearances and just two misplaced passes all game, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who made six tackles and two interceptions, shut down the Neymar-Mbappe left-channel link-up in impetuous style. Ahead of the defence, Fred and Scott McTominay won back possession 15 times and contested 30 duels between them. They were so efficient, so effective with and without the ball, that it seemed to rub off on Paul Pogba; again consigned to a substitute role, he seemed positively enthused when he entered the fray and looked more authoritative than he has in weeks.

It meant PSG, despite having 61 per cent of the ball, managed only five shots on target throughout - one fewer than United. When they did breach the defence, they found a confident and competent David de Gea, who saved brilliantly from Layvin Kurzawa and Mbappe in each half. It took a bizarre header from Anthony Martial into his own net to get them on the scoreboard.

At the other end, Tuchel's men were a mess by comparison. Abdou Diallo's careless challenge on Martial, which allowed Bruno Fernandes to score from the spot at the second time of asking, was a moment of rashness that seemed to set the tone. Martial and Rashford broke at will upon the back four and could have put the game out of sight earlier, with Rashford producing an infuriatingly poor pass in a clear two-on-one.

Still, Rashford again had the final word. Whereas last year it was a nerveless penalty in front of the PSG ultras, this was a quick turn and thunderous low strike beyond Keylor Navas, a finish that deserved to be seen by fans in the ground.

This is a truly tough group but United have made a brilliant start. Unlike last time, this is just the start of their Champions League campaign, not the shock highlight towards its end.

Few would make United true contenders for the trophy, but this at least showed they have the nous to mix it with the favourites. Once again, Rashford was the hero in Paris, but this was Solskjaer's night.

Related items

  • 'Ben Simmons is a young LeBron' – Howard says 76ers star can be an all-time NBA great 'Ben Simmons is a young LeBron' – Howard says 76ers star can be an all-time NBA great

    Dwight Howard believes Ben Simmons can become one of the greatest to ever play in the NBA as he compared the Philadelphia 76ers All-Star to LeBron James.

    Howard will team up with Simmons and Joel Embiid in Philadelphia after leaving NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers for the 76ers via free agency.

    An eight-time All-Star, Howard won a title alongside Lakers superstar James in Los Angeles and he is relishing the opportunity to play with former number one draft pick Simmons in Philadelphia.

    Simmons – an elite defender and creator with unrivalled pace – averaged 16.4 points, 8.0 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game last season before injury cut short his campaign as the 76ers were swept by the Boston Celtics in the opening round of the playoffs.

    "Ben Simmons is a young LeBron ... I love the way he plays. I love how unselfish he is, and how mean he can be to other teams, and that's important," Howard told reporters on Wednesday.

    "When you have your point guard coming down, dunking on people, flexing, getting big rebounds, talking trash, doing all those things, it drives you to want to be better.

    "He has an opportunity to be one of the greatest to ever play the game, and I'm glad I have the opportunity to actually give him some things that can help him along the way."

    Howard arrives in the city of Brotherly Love with one thing on his mind – delivering the 76ers their first championship since 1983.

    Much has been said about franchise pillars Embiid and Simmons, and their compatibility as the 76ers prepare for life under new head coach Doc Rivers, who replaced Brett Brown.

    When Embiid and Simmons play, the 76ers boast a 119-65 win-loss record, per Stats Perform. But without one or both, they greatly suffer (67-94), Embiid's physicality in the paint and Simmons' superior defensive skills vital in Philadelphia.

    The 76ers average 111.7 points, 107.5 opposition points, 47.4 rebounds and 26.4 assists per game with Embiid and Simmons involved, a clear improvement compared to when one or both miss a game – 106.7 points, 109.4 opposition points, 44.5 rebounds and 25.0 assists.

    Philadelphia also have a superior field goal percentage (46.9) when Embiid and Simmons both play, with the 76ers shooting just 45.3 per cent without one or both. Opposition numbers also go up in their absence – field goal percentage (44.3 to 46.2) and three-point percentage (34.1 to 35.5).

    "There's a lot of things," Howard replied when asked why he thinks the Sixers – who also recruited Seth Curry and Danny Green – can win a title. "You have two great young stars in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, I'm going to start there. Those guys, to me I watched when Joel lost [to the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference semi-finals in 2019] and how bad it hurt, he just cried, and I know what that feels like. I've been in that moment before where it's like, 'Man, I gave everything I had. I put it all on the line and I came up short.'

    "It doesn't sit well with you, it stays with you for a really long time. So with him I know he has a fire inside of him, and we've all seen glimpses of it all year, and I think this is the year where it's about being focused. I see focus in him, I see focus in Ben, and that's where it starts with our two best players.

    "Then you look at the rest of the guys on our team, they've all been hungry, they just never knew how to win. And I think by adding a guy like Danny Green and myself, we just fresh off of winning a championship, and I think we all know what it takes to really get to the next level.

    "And I think this is a really great opportunity. You have a coach always talking about winning, how important it is to win, and you have some players who just want it. I think this year with the focus this team will have and the drive that we have to be successful, this will be our year."

  • Diego Maradona dies: FIFA should retire number 10 from football – Villas-Boas Diego Maradona dies: FIFA should retire number 10 from football – Villas-Boas

    Marseille head coach Andre Villas-Boas urged FIFA to "withdraw the number 10 for all competitions" to honour Diego Maradona.

    Maradona, widely regarded as one of the best players of all-time, died at the age of 60 on Wednesday after a suspected heart attack.

    He starred in the number 10 for Napoli and Argentina during his playing career, and the shirt was retired by the Serie A club in his honour in 2000.

    Villas-Boas wants to see FIFA go one step further and withdraw the number 10 completely.

    "For Maradona, it's a hard blow. I would like FIFA to withdraw the number 10 for all competitions, all teams," he told a news conference after Marseille's 2-0 Champions League loss to Porto on Wednesday.

    "I think it's the best tribute that can be given to the greatest player in the history of football. It is an incredible loss for the world of football."

    Villas-Boas said he would always remember his one meeting with Maradona.

    "Yes, I met him once. He was a guest at the Pinetina, the Inter Milan sports centre, when I was there," he said.

    "And I remember this photo, next to my trophies in Porto. Because of that, I bought a watch when Hublot had them signed by Maradona. And this watch came with a jersey signed by him that I still keep. These are good memories.

    "But Maradona wasn't just that. It's his genius from the world of football, the images he leaves us, the image of his warm-up in Naples, those kinds of things that are extraordinary.

    "It's a loss for everyone. I only met him once, next to each other, it's a moment I won't forget."

    Maradona, the captain and inspiration behind Argentina's World Cup success in 1986 before going on to coach his country at the 2010 showpiece, had been hospitalised just days after turning 60.

    He appeared in a fragile state when he briefly made an appearance as his Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata side played a match on the evening of his birthday last month.

    Maradona won 91 caps for Argentina between 1977 and 1994, scoring 34 goals at international level.

    He started his career with Argentinos Juniors before joining Boca Juniors and went on to play for Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell's Old Boys before returning to Boca in 1995.

    Maradona had the best years of his club career in Italy, playing a massive part in Napoli winning the Serie A title in the 1986-87 and 1989-90 seasons.

    Playmaker Maradona also lifted the UEFA Cup with Napoli in 1989 and he won three trophies during his time at Barca – including the Copa del Rey in 1983.

    Maradona also had stints in charge of Textil Mandiyu, Racing Club, Al-Wasl, Fujairah and Dorados de Sinaloa in Mexico before being appointed by Gimnasia last year.

  • Diego Maradona dies: 'The poetry of football' – Conte and Zidane remember all-time great Diego Maradona dies: 'The poetry of football' – Conte and Zidane remember all-time great

    Inter head coach Antonio Conte described Diego Maradona as "the poetry of football" following the Argentina and Napoli great's death on Wednesday.

    Maradona – arguably football's greatest ever player – died at the age of 60 after a suspected heart attack, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) confirmed midweek.

    World Cup winner Maradona was discharged from hospital a fortnight ago following brain surgery, having undergone a routine operation for a subdural haematoma after being admitted to hospital due to concerns over anaemia and dehydration.

    Conte came up against Maradona during his time with boyhood club Lecce in Serie A, and he lauded the former Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata head coach following Wednesday's 2-0 Champions League loss to Real Madrid.

    "We are all shedding tears for the loss of a man who wrote football history and will always be an indelible figure in this sport," Conte told Sky Sport Italia.

    "He was the poetry of football. I had the pleasure of playing against him, of marking him, and it still doesn't seem real that he's gone, especially as he was still young. It's very sad."

    Madrid boss Zidane also spoke glowingly of Maradona after the LaLiga champions won at San Siro for the first time in their history.

    Former France international Zidane – also a World Cup winner – added: "It's an enormous loss for the world of football.

    "I have him engrained in my head because of what he did at the 1986 World Cup. I was 14 years old... I have no words. We're all very sad."

    Maradona, the captain and inspiration behind Argentina's World Cup success in 1986 before going on to coach his country at the 2010 showpiece, had been hospitalised just days after turning 60.

    He appeared in a fragile state when he briefly made an appearance as his Gimnasia side played a match on the evening of his birthday last month.

    Maradona won 91 caps for Argentina between 1977 and 1994, scoring 34 goals at international level.

    He started his career with Argentinos Juniors before joining Boca Juniors and went on to play for Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell's Old Boys before returning to Boca in 1995.

    Maradona had the best years of his club career in Italy, playing a massive part in Napoli winning the Serie A title in the 1986-87 and 1989-90 seasons.

    Playmaker Maradona also lifted the UEFA Cup with Napoli in 1989 and he won three trophies during his time at Barca – including the Copa del Rey in 1983.

    Maradona also had stints in charge of Textil Mandiyu, Racing Club, Al-Wasl, Fujairah and Dorados de Sinaloa in Mexico before being appointed by Gimnasia last year.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.