Manchester United beaten by PSG as Solskjaer tastes first defeat
The Norwegian’s 11-game unbeaten start came to a crushing halt.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suffered his first defeat as Manchester United caretaker manager and Paul Pogba was sent off as Angel Di Maria returned to haunt his former club and help Paris St Germain take control of this Champions League last-16 tie.
The first competitive encounter between these sides went the way of the visitors at Old Trafford, where the Norwegian’s first European game in charge saw the end of his 11-match unbeaten start to life in the hotseat.
PSG may have been without Neymar and Edinson Cavani but they boasted a player with a point to prove against United. Di Maria rose to the occasion amid the jeers to superbly provide assists for Presnel Kimpembe and Kylian Mbappe in a comfortable 2-0 first-leg win for the visitors.
As if Solskjaer’s men were not already facing a mountain to climb on March 6, Pogba will miss the trip to the French capital after picking up a late second booking to compound injuries to Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial.
PSG failed to muster a first-half shot on target as United held their own at the start, only to wilt as Di Maria made light of rough treatment from former team-mates and fans.
Signed for a then-British record fee in 2014 and sold after one poor season, he helped Thomas Tuchel’s side go ahead as Kimpembe turned home his exceptional corner delivery in the 53rd minute.
Di Maria’s pass was then swept home by Mbappe six minutes later to leave United flailing, with David De Gea producing some fine stops to prevent their difficult task in France becoming impossible.
But Pogba’s second yellow card at the death may have just swung the balance.
It was a galling end to a night that had begun well enough for the hosts at a crackling Old Trafford.
While Di Maria sent an early attempt wide, Marcus Rashford got away a fizzing strike from an acute angle that Gianluigi Buffon managed to prevent finding the top corner – what proved to be the only shot on target in an opening period of half-chances and fouls aplenty.
Kimpembe and Julian Draxler were first into Daniele Orsato’s notebook, before Pogba got a yellow card that could well have been followed by another after launching into an overzealous challenge on Dani Alves.
Juan Bernat and Ashley Young were the others booked in the first half, with the latter receiving his for hauling back fleet-footed Mbappe minutes after seeing the World Cup star go close when racing onto a through ball.
Tuchel could not believe the miss. De Gea prevented Di Maria, unaware offside would be called, to a huge cheer that was only beaten when Young barged his former team-mate out of play and into the metal fence surrounding the pitch.
Tensions on the field appeared to be matched in the stands and something landed by Luke Shaw’s feet as he prepared to take a corner near the PSG fans towards the end of a half that saw United receive two injury setbacks.
Lingard and Martial were replaced by the time play resumed for the second half, which quickly saw the already-booked Kimpembe haul back Rashford only to get away scot free.
The cards would soon flow, though, and Victor Lindelof was shown yellow for pulling back Mbappe, who found space to get away a header bound for the bottom corner until a fine low save by De Gea.
It was PSG’s first shot on target and followed by another from the resulting corner. Di Maria sent over a superb cross and Kimpembe ghosted in to put United behind.
Alves saw a deflected strike flash just wide as the Ligue 1 champions looked to extend their advantage, with Ander Herrera striking just wide of Buffon’s far post as United appeared to regain composure.
It was short-lived. Good build-up ended with Di Maria sending an inch-perfect cross for Mbappe to turn in, having burst between Eric Bailly and Lindelof.
United were left reeling and grateful to De Gea for keeping the scoreline down.
The reported PSG target produced a fine one-handed save after Mbappe raced through, before tipping over a Bernat effort. Solskjaer’s Reds were all over the place and lost their discipline.
Card-happy Orsato inevitably handed out a red towards the end, with Pogba receiving a second yellow at the end of a disappointing night.