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United fans celebrate at the Parc des Princes

'This was everything you want from Man United'

This was simply one of the most incredible nights of our storied history in European football. Little wonder the majority of the players sprinted at the final whistle to join the ecstatic away fans in celebration. Their first chants of sheer elation were directed to one man though – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Let’s be honest, virtually everybody had written the Reds off before a ball was kicked. This tie was over after PSG breezed to the 2-0 victory at Old Trafford and enjoyed seeing the game out with such comfort against 10 men.
 
Ole was positive at his pre-match press conference, scoffing at the suggestion this assignment in the French capital was ‘mission impossible’. No side had ever come back from a 2-0 home first-leg reverse in the Champions League and progressed. And we had 10 injuries to contend with.
 
Consequently, the substitutes’ bench largely consisted of youngsters but, again, this was of no concern to the Norwegian, who appears to have complete faith in the players at his disposal. He opted for his most experienced XI.

Highlights: PSG 1 United 3Video

The travelling United supporters – here in great numbers as always – that we spoke to were all equally positive and hopeful.
“We’ve got nothing to lose – we’re Man United,”
was one prescient comment. This was the prevailing mood. The Reds are back, fearing nobody and delighting our magnificent fans.
 
'Ole’s at the Wheel’ is the soundtrack to the remarkable job the caretaker manager is doing. It was booming out of the away end at the Parc des Princes at regular intervals, never more so than when we entered the final 15 minutes of the game. The hope had slowly transformed to expectation that the most incredible outcome was somehow a possibility.
 
The Paris crowd stayed behind their team, even though the strong favourites trailed for much of the night. You sensed any sign of disenchantment or anxiety would transmit itself to the players, who surrendered a convincing lead against Barcelona in the past, but it simply was not happening. Maybe this was the final piece of the jigsaw we required to perform a miracle.
The clock ticked on, with PSG doing much of the pressing and attacking. But our defence stood firm with some outstanding performances all across the backline from Ashley Young, Chris Smalling, Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw. Then Kylian Mbappe passed up a one-on-one opportunity and Juan Bernat was denied his second goal by a post. Was this seriously going to be our night?
 
The large majority of the crowd inside the stadium didn’t think so. With the finishing line in sight, they cranked up the volume. But we knew otherwise. Just one chance was all we craved. As it turned out, we didn’t really get that, as a shot by Diogo Dalot struck Presnel Kimpembe on the elbow.
 
Nobody seemed to appeal for a penalty. The first I knew of it was when the giant TV screen indicated it was a possible spot-kick incident, as Tahith Chong prepared to take the corner. But this is the age of VAR. Handball it was, and referee Damir Skomina eventually pointed to the spot after much deliberation.
Mason Greenwood celebrates.
Mason Greenwood became the youngest player to play for United in the European Cup/Champions League.
Earlier this week, my young son and I watched the England penalty shoot-out against Colombia from the World Cup again on YouTube. I’m not sure why – I think it showed up as a next option – but I was taken aback by just how cool Marcus Rashford’s penalty was. Requiring arguably even more nerves of steel this time, the young Manc ignored the fact Gianluigi Buffon was standing between him and the winner and belted it home.
 
If we had lost, I don’t think I would ever have felt more pride in United in defeat. Ole threw on Chong and also Mason Greenwood, handing the 17-year-old a debut on the biggest stage. This was Manchester United; this is everything we want to see from the club we love.
 
But here was still four minutes to see out, and on came Edinson Cavani. Romelu Lukaku, after his two goals, went to centre-back. Scott McTominay won a ball in midfield to ease the pressure and it was almost becoming difficult to contain the emotions.
 
Some time ago, in the office, we had a conversation where we agreed we did not want to say ‘United are back’ for fear of causing any jinx or heralding a false dawn. But, as the Red Army belted out, while the French supporters around us left the stadium in complete silence and bewilderment at what they had seen: 'United are back!'
 
The views in this article are personal to the author and not necessarily representative of the views of Manchester United Football Club.

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