Manchester United 0 Paris Saint-Germain 2
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s unbeaten start to his caretaker reign as Manchester United boss came to a shattering end as Paris Saint-Germain turned on the class at Old Trafford.
Second-half goals from Presnel Kimpembe and Kylian Mbappe topped off an impressive away performance in the Champions League round of 16 from the French side. The resounding win in Manchester leaves the Reds needing to pull off one of the club’s most memorable comebacks in the second leg on March 6. Paul Pogba is out of that tie after being sent off for a second yellow card late on.
United were unable to find any of the magic that has been sprinkled on them by Solskjaer in his opening 11 matches, which brought 10 wins and one draw. Europe was another level and PSG showed why they are among the favourites to be contesting the final in Madrid on June 1.
The Italian was making his 121st Champions League appearance but, inside the first 10 minutes, the 41-year-old had badly misplaced three passes out of his area. It certainly augured well if someone like Buffon was a bag of nerves.
Another visitor who appeared put off by the noise level was former Red Angel Di Maria. The United support certainly let the Argentine know they were not too happy with his time spent at the club under Louis van Gaal and booed his every touch.
The Reds’ one-time record buy from Real Madrid couldn’t put a foot right at first but he settled to provide the first danger of the game when he sent a left-foot shot just wide and into the Stretford End.
United’s best chance came when Marcus Rashford fired in a bullet from a tight angle that took a deflection and needed Buffon to react quickly at his near post.
PSG were, however, showing their class and keeping United’s danger very limited. The Reds were unable to get Anthony Martial on the ball but, equally, the French side were incapable for a while to get their danger man Kylian Mbappe working.
But when the French World Cup winner did start to motor, the warning signs were there. After 28 minutes, a slick, cutting PSG move saw Mbappe round David De Gea but his shot went into the side netting. Had he scored, it was likely, though, that VAR, in operation for the first time in the Champions League, would have ruled the goal out. The same could be said of Di Maria, who was denied by De Gea when looking well off side.
The first half was littered with yellow cards and the evening got tasty when Ashley Young shoulder-charged Di Maria off the pitch and into a metal barrier.
The South American’s colleagues were unhappy with there nature of the challenge and sparked a fracas. Young soon had a posse of Reds backing him up. It all calmed down fortunately, as the United skipper had already been cautioned.
Solskjaer was forced into his first substitution when Jesse Lingard went off injured seconds before half time. Alexis Sanchez came on and then, after the interval, Juan Mata replaced Martial.
PSG started the second half in full control of the tie and were ominously getting into their dangerous stride. Old Trafford sensed the French side were taking over and tried to rally the Reds but it was all to no avail.
United’s defence were softened up by Mbappe, when he had a free header in the 53rd minute that De Gea was able to get down to push aside for a corner. But there was no respite for the wobbling Reds and, from the resulting set-piece sent over by Di Maria, defender Kimpembe took advantage of a snoozing rearguard to crash a volley home.
It almost got worse for a stunned United team three minutes later when Dani Alves sent a thunderbolt whistling just wide, via a deflection off Pogba. United were on the ropes and bloodied but Ander Herrera answered with a long-range strike that went just wide of Buffon’s post.
However, Solskjaer’s men just couldn’t cope as PSG began to fluently attack at pace. The classy French outfit made it 2-0 on the hour as they broke at speed and Thilo Kehrer sent a ball away down the left to Di Maria. The Argentine drilled over a perfect low cross for Mbappe to sneak in between Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof and steer the ball in.
It was a struggle for United to hold rampant PSG as they put on a show and it needed a reaction stop from De Gea to halt Mbappe getting his second as the 20-year-old tried to chip the Spaniard.
PSG eased off after the spell that devastated United but even then the Reds were so rattled by the killer period that we couldn’t rally and grab a goal that might have given us more of a fighting chance in Paris.
But the Reds couldn’t muster up an opportunity to trouble Buffon, who was largely untested throughout in the visiting goal.
It got worse for United as they will be without Pogba for the second leg in France. The French midfielder had been yellow carded in the 25th minute and then clattered into Alves in the 89th minute. Italian referee Daniele Orsato consulted VAR before handing out another booking and then showing Pogba a red.
It was a disappointing end to a disappointing European night but Ole's name was still cheered to the rafters at the end.
United: De Gea; Young (c), Bailly, Lindelof, Shaw; Matic, Herrera; Lingard (Alexis 45), Pogba, Martial (Mata 46); Rashford (Lukaku 84).
Subs not used: Romero, Dalot, Jones, Fred.
Bookings: Pogba, Lindelof, Herrera, Shaw.
Red card: Pogba 89.
PSG: Buffon, Kehrer, Silva, Kimpembe, Bernat, Marquinhos, Verratti (Paredes 75), Alves, Draxler, Di Maria (Dagba 81), Mbappe.
Subs not used: Areola, Choupo-Moting, Kurzawa, Nkunku, Diaby.
Scorers: Kimpembe 53, Mbappe 60.
Bookings: Kimpembe, Draxler, Alves.