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Manchester United Tell Europe 'Bring It On!': Here Are 5 Big Talking Points As Solskjaer's Side Stun PSG In The Champions League

Written By Ankit Prasad | Mumbai | Published:

Manchester United scripted history on Wednesday night by becoming the first ever team in the Champions League to come back from a first-leg home loss of two goals or more to progress after the second leg. Trailing 2-0 to PSG after being soundly beaten at Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side pulled off an improbable 3-1 win in Paris to go through on the away goals rule, 3-3 on aggregate.

Here are five talking points from another extraordinary night in European football:

1. Lukaku delivered when he needed to most:

Romelu Lukaku's return to form under Solskjaer has been understated in comparison to that of his friend Paul Pogba, but with consecutive doubles to his name, the Belgian would have figured high on his manager's list of probable game-changers ahead of kick-off. And it wasn't too long after that that he struck. At 1:51 minutes, Lukaku gave his side the perfect start, filling players, staff and even a few fans with belief that it wasn't over yet. His first touch needed to be much better than in the Mourinho era for his side to be able to compete against a side that was bound to overwhelm them possession-wise, but regardless of whether or not that eventually turned out to be the case, United faithful would more than satisfied that when it came to the first touch that really mattered - i.e. when Rashford's stinging shot was uncharacteristically palmed onto an onrushing Lukaku's path by veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon, the striker bundled it in. He tired later on, but his goals kept his side in with a chance until the very end, when his strike partner completed the job.

2. United's midfield - outclassed but not outmanoeuvred: 

A central midfield comprising Scott McTominay, Fred and Andreas Pereira would not have given fans much belief, especially given how PSG's dynamos had given United's first-choice midfield a run-around in the first leg at Old Trafford, and similar scenes were witnessed almost all through the game at the Parc Des Princes. PSG had the ball an awful lot and in the first half in particular, made United's midfield look like training cones, with Di Maria and Verratti leaving their opponents chasing shadows and Kylian Mbappe threatening to slip in behind the 5-man United defence each time he tried. However, after Bailly was taken off and Dalot brought on, the makeshift midfield began to gather their bearings. Calmness on the ball is the key to success in Europe and in the second half, Fred and McTominay appeared to have also decided that they want to play, much to the relief of their manager.

3. The team that finished the match was classic Manchester United:

Mason Greenwood and Tahith Chong's presence on the pitch, along with Diogo Dalot, almost made 21-year-old Marcus Rashford seem like a veteran! Scott McTominay is also a home-grown player and to have so many untried-and-untested players on the field in such an intimidating atmosphere while chasing the game would feel like asking for it, but for everyone who says 'inexperience', Solskjaer would probably say 'desire', 'hunger', or some such. This return to traditions didn't just extend to the pitch either. At the end of the match, Sir Alex Ferguson and Eric Cantona paid the players a visit, joining in the raucous celebrations. Verging on six years since Ferguson's retirement, Manchester United are finally beginning to look like Manchester United.


These three 😍

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4. VAR undid PSG, but PSG also undid themselves:

The trendy and wealthy French side would have fancied their chances with their 2-0 away win, but they'd also have had in the back of their minds that they've been here before and failed here before, often in unbelievable ways. United had no right to be in it, at 1-0 or 2-1, but they rode their luck and finally, got a bit of unsolicited luck when VAR was called for a potential penalty decision when one felt that they'd have settled for the corner, as Dalot's late shot deflected off Kimpembe. Once the referee ran to the VAR screen, however, everyone sensed what was coming. 

5. The job is Solskjaer's to keep, but how far can United go?

All the post-match talk was about whether Solskjaer's appointment would be made permanent following his extraordinary success since taking charge, but while the Norwegian didn't make any big statements, Romelu Lukaku's view was more telling. "I know he's staying", the United front-man said in his post-match interview. Solskjaer's biggest statement - and his clearest - was when he was asked if United can go all the way and he said 'why not?'. Big sides still remain in the Champions League, but United have now beaten Juventus and PSG away from home - the kind of thing that would make them feel ready to face anyone and everyone else, unwilling to face them.