Manchester United 1 Paris Saint-Germain 3
Manchester United’s UEFA Champions League destiny is still in the balance, after a 3-1 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain at Old Trafford.
Marcus Rashford scored for the third match in a row against the French champions, but a brace from Neymar – one in the early stages, another at the death - and a Marquinhos strike gave Thomas Tuchel’s men a much-needed victory and leaves three sides in Group H deadlocked on nine points, going into matchday six.
United had several opportunities to score on the counter with the game level at 1-1, but, after the visitors had pulled ahead for a second time, our frustration was compounded by a red card for Fred and a potential injury for Rashford.
Solskjaer made three changes from the starting line-up he selected at the weekend, when his side thrillingly recovered to overcome Southampton 3-2. Scott McTominay and Anthony Martial came back in, but the headline change was match-winning substitute Edinson Cavani being picked from the off against the side he served for seven years, scoring goals by the bucketload – 200 in total, overtaking Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s club record.
Even shorn of their record scorer, PSG are bursting at the seams with world-class talent and it took Neymar, arguably their biggest name, just six minutes to show what he could do.
The Brazilian played a neat one-two with Kylian Mbappe on the edge of the area and, when the latter’s shot took a deflection off McTominay, the world’s most expensive player was on hand – and onside – to smash past David De Gea and into the bottom corner.
The Ligue Un leaders, with Marco Verratti and Leandro Paredes back in midfield, bossed the early proceedings and could have doubled their lead moments later, only for De Gea to palm away Alessandro Florenzi’s stinging effort.
Paredes was at the centre of the action for the game’s first real flashpoint when, on 20 minutes, he fell to the ground after an altercation with Fred.
The visitors surrounded referee Daniele Orsato, who was asked by the Video Assistant Referee to check the screen for a potential red card – the verdict, thankfully from a United point of view, was yellow.
If that was a let-off, it was one Solskjaer’s side took full advantage of, when Rashford levelled on the half-hour mark, after a good spell of Reds pressure.
After Navas parried Martial’s drive, the ball was worked back out to our no.10, whose shot found the back of the net, via Danilo Pereira’s outstretched leg, for his third goal in as many games against PSG.
With the end of the first 45 broken up by a number of petty fouls, and several men lucky not to be booked, it was perhaps a surprise that neither manager opted to make a change at half-time.
And it was even more startling not to see Martial hit the target when, after good combination play by Rashford and Cavani on the right, the French striker was presented with a great chance to put us ahead – instead, he could only find the empty seats of the Stretford End.
With PSG pushing forward to find the goal that would keep qualification in their hands, United started to find joy on the break.
Cavani almost had a dream reunion with his former side, only to chip against the crossbar, with Keylor Navas stranded, and Martial was unlucky to see his follow up blocked by Marquinhos. The PSG captain was then involved at the other end, as De Gea watched the Brazilian’s looping header hit the top of the bar and go out of play.
But, moments after stretching to brilliantly palm Mitchell Bakker’s shot wide, the Spaniard could do nothing to prevent Marquinhos from bundling the ball home, and United were dealt a further blow when Fred picked up his second booking immediately after the restart, with Orsato failing to notice the Brazilian had got the ball first in his challenge with the returning Ander Herrera.
Herrera blazed one over as a depleted United struggled to reimpose ourselves on the encounter, before substitute Paul Pogba – on for the stricken Rashford – saw a speculative volley whistle past the frame.
PSG retreated into their shell and soaked up the pressure and, after Mbappe missed a glorious chance on the break, Neymar made it 3-1 late on.
United remain top of the group, but now travel to RB Leipzig next Tuesday still requiring a point to secure progress to the last 16.
United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka (Ighalo 89), Lindelof, Maguire (c), Telles: Fred, McTominay; Rashford (Pogba 74), Fernandes, Martial (Greenwood 79); Cavani (van de Beek 79).
Subs not used: Henderson, Bailly, Fosu-Mensah, Williams, James, Lingard, Mata, Matic.
Goal: Rashford 32
Sent off: Fred
PSG: Navas; Florenzi (Kehrer 78), Kimpembe, Marquinhos (c), Diallo (Gueye 89); Verratti (Rafinha 78), Danilo, Paredes (Herrera 65); Kean (Bakker 65), Neymar, Mbappe.
Subs not used: Rico, Letellier, Di Maria, Kurzawa, Dagba, Pembele, Fadiga
Goals: Neymar 6, 90, Marquinhos 69
Booked: Paredes, Verratti
“I think you look back at that game and the chances we created and you feel we deserve to go through.
“But you need to be more clinical, you need to take your chances, definitely. But you’ve got to say the boys did create those moments and chances, that’s the big positive.
“We should have been more clinical, of course, we know that. More quality with the finish and then you’re celebrating. But that’s football. It’s always decided in the boxes with that quality.
“Sometimes it goes for you, sometimes against you and definitely tonight it went against us. We didn’t deserve to lose.”