Another Wonderful Night in Paris

With a lineup that made United fans wonder how many goals PSG might actually score, Manchester United walked into Paris and took it to PSG, opening their Champions League campaign with a 2-1 victory and three vital points.

The last time Manchester United were in Paris, they trailed PSG 2-0 going into their second leg of the Round of 16 match-up. Two goals from Romalu Lukaku and a late penalty from Marcus Rashford, saw United advance to the Quarterfinals on away goals.

Thanks to being drawn into the proverbial, “Group of Death,” with PSG, RB Leipzig, and Istanbul Basaksehir, United were tasked with opening their 2020-21 Champions League campaign in Paris. United were coming into their opening match with PSG struggling and Ole Gunner Solskjaer looking like he was fighting for his job.

In what many thought would be a fruitless effort, United looked sharp on defense–something that has not been said very often lately–and countered PSG to create chance after chance. If it were not for Rashford’s unselfishness, United might have scored 4 or 5 goals.

Defensively, the backline of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Alex Telles, Luke Shaw, Victor Lindeloff, and Axel Tuanzebe bottled up PSG stars Kylian Mbappe and Neymar all night long. The only blemish on United’s defensive effort was an own goal by Anthony Martial. What a far cry from the 6-1 thrashing by Tottenham just a few weeks prior.

What makes this victory even more impressive is United’s form coming into Tuesday’s match. Despite a 4-1 victory at Newcastle on Saturday–a match that saw United score 3 after the 86th minute. In matches with Crystal Palace, Brighton, and Tottenham, United’s offense looked anemic and its defense looked like it belonged on a Sunday League pitch rather than part of a club that was supposed to challenge Liverpool for the league title.

With the entire club putting in strong shifts versus PSG, there were a few that stood out. To begin with, Axel Tuanzebe looks like he belongs in United’s backline every match. Making his first appearance in nearly a year, Tuanzebe was able to hang with Neymar and Mbappe making life difficult for them all night long. Hopefully, Tuanzebe will be a major help in shoring up the less than stellar defense.

It looks like United have found a great wingback in Alex Telles. His crosses were very much so on point, he looked comfortable on the ball, and provided great corner service all night. His crosses and Edinson Cavani’s presence in the box should make for some exciting attacks.

In the midfield, Fred and Scott McTominay did what they do best: play under control, provide defensive coverage, and work hard their entire shift. This seems to be something that Paul Pogba struggles with. Another addition to that duo, would be Donny van de Beek. Maybe Solskjaer can find the opportunity to put McTominay and van de Beek in the same midfield. Can only image great things happening there.

Finally, there is Marcus Rashford. He is definitely is a superstar that rises to the occasion. However, unlike many goal scorers, he likes to give up the ball at times when he should attack the goal. If one thing proved true versus PSG, Rashford needs to be selfish in order for United to shine.

Admittedly, things looked bleak for United coming out of the International break. However, let’s keep in mind that while United got hammered by Tottenham, Manchester City lost 5-2 to Leicester City and Liverpool was trounced 7-2 by Aston Villa…Aston Villa!! So, things may not be as bleak as it seems for Manchester United. Now, if United can figure out how to score against teams that do not attack like bigger clubs, then things might not just be as bleak as fans think it might be.

The true test will be over the next few weeks as the Reds take on Chelsea, RB Leipzig, Arsenal, Istanbul, and Everton. Play like they did on Tuesday, this stretch should be fun to watch.

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