PSG left to answer familiar questions after ‘worst game’ against Manchester United

Melissa Reddy
·3-min read
PSG striker Neymar (REUTERS)
PSG striker Neymar (REUTERS)

Tuesday had began with social media flooded with gags about Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s personal life, but a few hours later the joke was firmly on Paris Saint-Germain under the Parc des Princes lights.

“What are the lockdown restrictions in France?,” one tweet went during Manchester United's 2-1 win the in the capital. “Because it doesn’t look like PSG are allowed to play football.”

Fifty eight days after reaching the Champions League final, the hosts were faced with familiar questions.

Are they really that good? Does their quality extend beyond their offensive weapons? Why do they disappoint on the biggest stage more than they dominate it?

All the criticism and wondering if PSG are more a daunting prospect in the mind than on the pitch was valid.

Thomas Tuchel conceded: “In the first half, we were simply not there. It was not our level in moving the ball, in possession, in counter-attacking, in challenges, in intensity. By far, one of our worst games, one of our worst first halves."

PSG were so laboured, so lacking in direction and so predictable that it would have been a disservice to the nature of the game had Marcus Rashford not spun Danilo Pereira with ease before directing a diagonal blast into the bottom corner on 87 minutes for the winner.

United were superior for the largest spell of the match, defending diligently with David de Gea rewinding to the best version of himself to thwart Angel di Maria and Layvin Kurzawa early on.

Axel Tuanzebe produced a man-of-the-match display, Alex Telles was hugely impressive on his debut, Bruno Fernandes was typically luminary while Scott McTominay and Fred were tireless in the centre of the park.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s defensive, counter-attacking approach is crafted for nights like this, opposition like this. Neymar was largely anonymous, noticed more for when he was walking away from play rather than decorating it.

Wan-Bissaka and Tuanzebe were excellent at keeping PSG’s main menace, Kylian Mbappe, quiet with De Gea on hand to parry his goal-bound shot on the rare occasion he carved some mastery.

"Axel in his first game in 10 months, Alex on his debut, so we didn't really want to play a back four so we played a back three, or back five - call it whatever you like - and I thought it worked well,” Solskjaer explained of his set-up.

Rashford scored the late winner in ParisGetty
Rashford scored the late winner in ParisGetty

"The performance showed we have developed. Scott and Fred were outstanding. They laid the foundation for the win.

“Scotty played the first half with one eye as well, that was the most impressive thing, because he lost his contact lens. That was impressive.

"We know when we go here against a team like this with players like Neymar and Mbappe, we have to defend well and David will have to make a few good saves."

Even when Tuchel attempted to resurrect PSG’s explosiveness by introducing Everton loanee Moise Kean, the had to rely on Anthony Martial’s own goal to beat De Gea.

A brief period of them sparking into life was squashed by Solskjaer changing the shape again with the introduction of Paul Pogba.

It was the midfielder’s ball that Rashford collected to cause damage.

“From the start until the end it felt like we were never at our highest level, and we were really into the match like was absolutely necessary on this level,” Tuchel said.

And so PSG, despite suffering only their first home Champions League group defeat since December 2004, failed to deliver again.

United, meanwhile, again proved that they can bring their A-game for the A-listers.

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