Reds and PSG react to Champions League draw
Denis Irwin believes Jose Mourinho's formidable experience and achievements in Europe can stand Manchester United in good stead in our Champions League last-16 tie against Paris St-Germain.
The Reds will face the French giants for the first time in a competitive game when the tournament enters the knockout stage in the new year.
Mourinho has won four major European honours as a manager to date – the UEFA Cup and Champions League with FC Porto in 2003 and 2004 respectively, the Champions League with Inter Milan in 2010, and the Europa League with United in 2017.
Irwin, who won the Champions League as a Reds star in 1999, feels the manager’s know-how could be crucial to United’s chances of progressing and he’ll ensure his men will be ready to take on PSG.
“We will be really looking forward to the Paris game,” the former defender told Sky Sports at Monday's draw in Nyon, where he was among the club representatives.
“We are still a tough side to beat, we really are. We have got a manager who has got great experience in winning this competition and great experience of winning trophies so hopefully that will count for us.
“Come Paris we will be ready. He [Jose] has got a great record wherever he has been. He has got great experience in winning trophies. We won the Europa League two seasons ago under Mourinho. No matter who plays us, they are in for a difficult time and we are really looking forward to it.”
The Reds will welcome Thomas Tuchel's team to Old Trafford in the first leg on Tuesday 12 February 2019, before travelling to the Parc des Princes for the second leg on Wednesday 6 March 2019.
PSG, who have been domestic champions in five of the last six seasons, were the leading scorers in the Champions League group stage with 17 goals and currently sit top of France's top flight, Ligue 1.
While those figures would make the French team favourites to progress, Irwin has a positive mindset and feels there is plenty of time for the Reds to rediscover some winning form before the tie, in a bid to avoid a repeat of last season’s last-16 exit at the hands of Sevilla.
“There are still two months to go. Listen, they [PSG] will be well on top of their league, we have already seen that,” Irwin added, in an interview with UEFA.com.
“They have plenty of attacking talent going forward – Neymar, [Kylian] Mbappe, [Edinson] Cavani and [Angel] Di Maria, who was at our club for a year or so.
“We will hopefully pick up some form before that. It’s a good game and we are looking forward to it. We have good experience, but we went out at the Round of 16 last season and we don't want to do that again.
“The last month or so has been sticky for us but the PSG tie is two months away and there are a lot of matches to be played before then. We can concentrate on the Premier League now and the FA Cup starts up in January, but come February we'll be looking forward to it [the Champions League].
“Without a doubt, winning at Juventus is our result of the season so far. We went to Bern and won away [against Young Boys] as well. Juventus and Valencia didn't do that. It was quite a tricky group, so we did well to get out of there. There were no easy ties in there.
“There are some cracking fixtures [in the last 16] to look forward to, none more so than ours. We are really looking forward to it.”
PSG HAVE 'THE GREATEST RESPECT' FOR UNITED
The draw was well received by our French opponents, who are looking forward to a historic first-ever competitive clash with United.
PSG owner Nasser Al-Khelaïfi said:
“For the first time in history, our club will face Manchester United and this last-16 tie promises two great Champions League nights, against a prestigious opponent for which we have the greatest respect.
“Our fans will experience magical moments, both in Manchester and at the Parc des Princes. As I always say, we need to be ready to play against all and any team, and we will be ready.”
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