A minute after spurning a glorious opening with a skewed cross, Marcus Rashford backs himself to take on a shot from over 30 yards against one of history’s finest goalkeepers. Gianluigi Buffon – underemployed but nervy in the first leg at Old Trafford – spills it, Lukaku pounces. 2-1. If Rashford doesn’t speculate from 30 yards, the goal doesn’t happen.
Now, framing this as purely positive thinking instilled by the manager adheres to the oft-posited theory that Ole, being one of the nicest men in existence, has turned United’s fortunes around by smiling, buying presents and reminding everybody where they work. Not so. However amiable a character he is, this is still a man with a predatory eye for detail.
A former coach at United reminded me recently of an incident towards the end of Ole’s playing career. A couple of days before a particular game, Ole was discussing the opposing goalkeeper’s technique, and how he tended to spread his legs too wide, making him susceptible to low, central shots. When the game came around, Ole was given just over 10 minutes as a substitute, with the score level. He duly drilled in the winning goal, through the ‘keeper’s legs.
Having spent years remorselessly scouring opponents for weaknesses as a player, it’s little surprise that Ole then took a long, hard look at PSG’s mental scars and ripped them wide open.