United players celebrating against PSG.

Where does PSG rank among our top Euro nights?

Manchester United became the first side in UEFA Champions League history to overturn a two-goal first-leg home deficit on Wednesday, by dispatching Paris Saint-Germain 3-1. Meanwhile, Mason Greenwood became the youngest player in club history to feature in the European Cup/Champions League.
 
But in another way, it was a night totally in keeping with our long and storied roots in European competition, which date back to Matt Busby’s fearless first foray into continental football way back in 1956.
 
Over the decades, United’s romantic reputation has been hewn from a series of unlikely triumphs over adversity – of which the ten-year journey from the Munich Air Disaster to our first European Cup success in 1968 is the most glaring and remarkable example.
 
This week's events at the Parc des Princes prove that post-Busby, post-Ferguson, the same derring-do spirit still endures. But where – excluding our obvious five triumphant final wins – does PSG rank among our greatest European nights?
 
There are plenty of contenders, but scroll down for our top six…

Highlights: PSG 1 United 3Video

1957: UNITED 3 BILBAO 0 (United win 6-5 on aggregate)
Arguably the night Manchester fell in love with the European Cup. At one point in the first leg in the Basque Country, United trailed 5-2. A virtuosic solo goal from Billy Whelan reduced the arrears five minutes before time, but the Reds still had plenty to do back in England. Goals from Dennis Viollet and Tommy Taylor drew the scores level on aggregate, in front of a mammoth 70,000 crowd at Maine Road – used ahead of Old Trafford due to its floodlights – before Johnny Berry struck minutes before time to prevent a replay.
 
“You could hear the shouts from over in Oldham, I believe,”
recalled United fan and author Brian Hughes in a 1990s documentary, Reds In Europe.
“I heard people tell me the next day, where I used to work on Smithfield Market. The fellas from Oldham said, ‘I heard all the roaring going on!’
 
1966: BENFICA 1 UNITED 5 (United win 8-3 on aggregate)
United held a slim 3-2 lead when they journeyed to Lisbon to contest the second leg. But few deemed their advantage sufficient. Eusebio and co had never been defeated on their home patch in European competition, and averaged over four goals a game.
 
Not that 19-year-old George Best was too fazed by the reputation of a side that had reached four of the last five European Cup finals, winning two.
“Matt had told us to keep it tight early on,”
remembered Paddy Crerand, but the Ulsterman was having none of it. Within 16 minutes United were 3-0 up – Best having scored twice. The final score was a sensational 5-1, with the two-times champions humbled in their own back yard. Best transformed into a superstar overnight, and United were reinstated as European heavyweights, eight years after Munich.
1968: REAL MADRID 3 UNITED 3 (United win 4-3 on aggregate)
Again United held a narrow one-goal lead from the first leg, but three first-half Madrid strikes quickly eradicated most of the pre-match optimism. However, with 15 minutes remaining, David Sadler leapt high to turn home George Best’s flick-on, before Munich survivor Bill Foulkes became an unlikely match-winner by toe-poking the Reds ahead 4-3 on aggregate three minutes later. United were through to their first European final, at the expense of the six-times winners. 
 
1984: UNITED 3 BARCELONA 0 (United win 3-2 on aggregate)
Often regarded as the greatest European night in Old Trafford history by Reds of a certain vintage – though 2007’s 7-1 demolition of Roma and the 2008 1-0 win over Barcelona have their passionate advocates – United were regarded as virtual no-hopers in this 1984 Cup Winners’ Cup tie after a 2-0 loss at the Nou Camp.
 
As if the scoreline were not enough of a downer, Barca boasted Diego Maradona and German midfield maestro Bernd Schuster. But that was not enough for the Catalans, as a Bryan Robson-inspired United – urged on by a baying, booming crowd in M16 – roared back to win 3-0, thanks to two from Captain Marvel and one from Frank Stapleton. 
Bryan Robson against Barcelona.
"Not tonight, lads." Bryan Robson lays down the law as United trounce Barcelona 3-0.
1999: JUVENTUS 2 UNITED 3 (United win 4-3 on aggregate)
Juventus were arguably the most feared team in Europe back in the mid-to-late nineties, and were heading for a sixth European final in seven seasons when Pippo Inzaghi scored twice within 11 minutes in the second match in Turin. United had never won in Italy before but, with their backs against the wall, they responded with an astonishing display of verve and spirit, and had levelled the tie on aggregate before half-time through Roy Keane and Dwight Yorke. Andy Cole put the Reds out of sight in the final 10 minutes, completing a pound-for-pound win that probably has no equal. In the circumstances, given the opposition, and what was at stake, surely there is no better United European performance outside of a final…
 
2019: PSG 1 UNITED 3 (3-3 on aggregate, United win on away goals)
Or is there? PSG might not be the side Juventus were back in the ‘90s – the Parisians have failed to surpass the last-16 stage in the last three seasons – but they do possess a phenomenal roster of players, including arguably the stand-out player from last year’s World Cup finals, in Kylian Mbappe.
 
When you consider no side in Champions League history has overturned the kind of result United suffered in the first leg before, and the absence of 10 first-teamers at the Parc des Princes - five of whom started the first leg – this result is worthy of consideration as one of the club’s great European nights. Add to that the fact that five Academy graduates played a part on the pitch, with Marcus Rashford slamming home the memorable winner and two players receiving their debuts in the competition, and the sheer chutzpah and audacity shown by Solskjaer’s young team shines through in dazzling fashion. Let’s hope there is more to come in the next round and beyond.

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