PSG 1-3 Manchester United: Injury-stricken Reds master record-breaking comeback
(Photo by Mark Leech/Offside/Getty Images)

PSG 1-3 Manchester United: Injury-stricken Reds master record-breaking comeback

An added-time penalty from Marcus Rashford sent Manchester United into the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals in simply remarkable fashion.

harry-robinson
Harry Robinson

"We just keep going," Romelu Lukaku said. Those words have been uttered by so many Manchester United players, under Busby, Ferguson and now Solskjaer. It's true. On Wednesday night, one dressing room beneath the seats of the Parc des Princes was a scene of bedlam.

If the jubilant United players walked back out the tunnel onto the pitch on which they completed one of the UEFA Champions League's greatest comebacks they would have been met by their fans, singing in the rain long after the final whistle.

Some will say that Manchester United did not deserve to win in Paris. And yet, they did, making history by overturning a two-goal deficit away from home in Europe.

 

The manner that they did so wasn't a performance of huge technical quality, but it didn't need to be. Solskjaer had to deal with 10 first team absentees, including Paul Pogba. The response was to dig into the club's ever-productive academy.

21-year-old Marcus Rashford calmly waited three minutes before rifling home a penalty in added time. Back home in England, the club's many injured men screamed in their own living rooms, celebrating with friends and family while teenagers took to Paris to beat the competition favourites.

Romelu Lukaku scored twice in the first half either side of a strike from Juan Bernat for the Parisians.

At times, United looked set to be slaughtered by Thomas Tuchel's side, who had been tipped to finally achieve glory in this competition this season.

This was another European knockout tie that, due to the away goal, had the ability to lurch from one scenario to the other in a fraction of a second.

Solskjaer claimed "mountains are there to be climbed" and it took until the 93rd-minute for the peak to be reached, and what a monstrously large peak it is. The job application is complete.

Story of the match

From minute one, it was the kind of breathtakingly action-packed night that makes football a more addictive substance than any drug.

It was not one of those special European nights where the continent's greatest players contend with each other on a highly technical level. Instead, it was fast-paced as the advantage and momentum swung from the ruthless men of Paris to the injury-stricken side of Manchester.

Within two minutes, Romelu Lukaku slid home a stunningly early goal that temporarily silenced the Parc des Princes. Marcus Rashford's pressure forced an early mistake from Thilo Kehrer whose lackadaisical pass backwards was pounced on by a sharp Lukaku.

The man confined to a bit-part role only two weeks ago arrived in Paris on the back of four goals in two games. Lukaku took two touches to race away from his marker, past Buffon. The second was slightly heavy, but he caught up with it, sliding in the wet and hooking it back goalwards for a United lead.

The noise of the PSG ultras, led by an incessant drum just as it was at Old Trafford, told the story of the first half. Muffled by Lukaku's instant impact, they waited no more than 10 minutes to be revived.

PSG's elite quality promptly showed. Eric Bailly, thrown in at right-back by Solskjaer in an unfamiliar system, struggled. Before a change could be made, he and Ashley Young, playing slightly further forward, were torn apart, thrown in every direction like meat in a predator's mouth.

A chance was squandered. Another came. Repeat, but that only lasted until Mbappé did well to stay onside before sweeping a ball back across goal to notch his fifth assist in European competitions this season, putting him at the top of the charts. Bailly had kept him onside and then stood flat-footed on the opposite side of the box as Juan Bernat raced past him at speed and finished into a half-empty net. Just before Bernat ran off in celebration, Bailly responded and lurched forward. To no avail.

PSG continued to dominate. Despite their goal, United had had just 13% possession and were making an average of one pass per minute. The Parisians were toying with them. Bernat saw another effort parried away by De Gea.

As with all games, matters settled. United had weathered the worst of PSG, if not yet the rain. And when the ball squelched to a stop inside the PSG half, Rashford paused for a moment before swinging his leg back and unleashing a sweet dipping drive.

It fell out of the hands of Buffon, the man desperate to finally lift the Champions League crowd. Lukaku, as sharp as for the first goal, pounced. A one-goal lead restored, one more to go.

Diogo Dalot arrived onto the pitch and, just as the 19-year-old did back home on Saturday against Southampton, changed the game. At Old Trafford, the change was forced through a Sanchez injury. In Paris, Bailly limped off. Whether injured or not, he had to go off before being sent to the slaughterhouse.

Young shifted back into right-back and United converted to a four-man defence. United held out until half-time, having made more defensive clearances than passes in the attacking third, but with only one goal still to find.

Solskjaer demanded before the match that his side ensure they were 'in the game' with 20 minutes remaining. Although a few last-ditch interceptions were needed, it took little for United to keep that promise after the break.

PSG played too slowly, perhaps with the threat of United's counter-attack, composed of Rashford and a clinical Lukaku, in their minds.

When Tuchel's side did finally up the pace, di Maria clipped the ball over De Gea and it nestled down into the net. Mbappe had slotted the ball through. The prescence of VAR may have slowed the linesman's flag, but it still lifted to keep United in the game.

Injury forced Julian Draxler off. Young quickly moved in front of di Maria to prevent an Mbappe cross reaching him. Little else of note happened, all this after such a frantic first half where stomachs lurched at the mere movement of the ball into either box, though it was United's more frequently.

Mbappe briefly had the opportunity to wrap things up. Smalling attempted to clear a ball over the top from Alves but it instead fell into the path of the world's brightest young talent.

De Gea charged out, his hand pushing it into Mbappe's body. The defence recovered, but their heartbeats won't have done for some time.

Mason Greenwood and Tahith Chong arrived onto the pitch for United, two teenagers. They ran aggressively.

It was another teenager, bought rather than produced, who set up the late drama. Dalot, superb on the night once again, launched a speculative effort from outside the box.

With a deflection, it went out for a corner. United prepared for a late, final effort. And yet, a momentary pause and the referee was jogging over to the pitchside VAR screen.

A two-minute review ensued. Then there was a further wait as PSG's players desperately pleaded for a second reversal to the decision.

Meanwhile, 21-year-old academy product Rashford waited, too. Unlike the fans, he maintained his composure. While Reds in Paris and at home clambered behind seats or sofas, Rashford kept his composure and slammed the penalty home past Buffon.

VAVEL Logo