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Manchester United v PSG: Match Preview
Even the most die-hard of Manchester United fans could not have predicted the remarkable turnaround in the club’s fortunes in recent weeks.
The sacking of Jose Mourinho proved the catalyst for a stunning revival in a season that many had written off as yet another failure. New manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has won 25 of a possible 27 points in the Premier League, guiding the Red Devils back into the top four after closing an 11-point gap on rivals Arsenal and Chelsea.
Young striker Marcus Rashford is in the form of his life, while midfielder Paul Pogba also appears to have benefitted from a change of regime, scoring a double against Fulham last time out to take his tally for the season to 13 – the most prolific of his career to date.
Even in defence United appear transformed with David De Gea putting his early season struggles behind him to inspire the 13-time Premier League champions to a 1-0 win over Spurs last month thanks to a miraculous 13-save masterclass.
Five clean sheets in all competitions under Solskjaer have already equalled the five picked up under Mourinho this season with the likes of Phil Jones and Victor Lindelof particularly impressive in the heart of defence.
However, the cynics among the footballing population have been quick to point out that, despite Solskjaer’s impressive start, United have yet to be truly tested.
Spurs might feel a little aggrieved not to have scored at Wembley last month and, were it not for a superhuman David De Gea, might well have won comfortably on another day.
Elsewhere, United’s victories over the likes of Cardiff, Huddersfield, Newcastle and Fulham were as expected as they were impressive.
The imminent visit of French champions PSG feels like the first real examination of Solskjaer’s credentials on the biggest stage – but it is a measure of the Norwegian’s success that momentum feels firmly with the hosts rather than their visitors.
An injury crisis has begun to unfold at Les Parc Des Princes, leaving Les Parisiens without a number of key men.
Star forward Neymar will miss both legs of the last-16 tie after damaging his metatarsal, while striker Edinson Cavani hobbled off during the weekend’s win over Bordeaux, casting doubt over his availability for Tuesday’s tie.
Belgian wing back Thomas Meunier, who scored against Liverpool at Anfield earlier this season, could also miss out while midfielder Marco Veratti only lasted 60 minutes on his return from an ankle injury at the weekend.
Coach Thomas Tuchel will have his work cut out against a United outfit rejuvenated in recent weeks but his team have only lost three times this season, conceding only 13 goals in the league while scoring a whopping 68.
At full strength, few could look past an on-song PSG heading into the last eight but it remains to be seen whether the French giants can maintain their killer instinct without two of their three most incisive forwards.
Failure to reach the quarter-finals would see PSG exit the competition at the same stage for the third consecutive season – a measly return on the biggest stage for such a lavishly-assembled squad.
Manchester United v PSG: Manager Quotes
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer: “I have loved every single minute of it ever since I walked in and met the players.
“Going into this game [with PSG] I don't think we could be in a better frame of mind with confidence and form so we are really looking forward to the next few games coming up.
“I was watching it with Noah [Solskjaer’s son] and we said, ‘wow that is a tough challenge'. But we have given ourselves the best possible opportunity in the way we have gone into this game because we are confident.
“I have found out what kind of team we have, we are looking like a team, we are agreeing on how we should approach games.
“So if there is any time to go into big games like this, it is now.”
Paris Saint-Germain manager Thomas Tuchel: “You can’t just place all the burden on him but we’re talking about Mbappe – he has his own qualities, it’s not really his job to replace Cavani and Neymar, and he can’t do all three things at the same time.
“He has to play his game, to play with confidence and I want us to be capable to help him with the right kind of support, good passes. And, he needs to play with a good mind-set, needs to be positive – it’s part of his development
“We have our identity as a team and it’s not easy to change a team’s identity. Obviously we’re missing a couple of key players but I don’t know if it’s the right time to change our ID.
“We play attacking football, we’re PSG, that’s what we’re used to – to create opportunities, it’s in our DNA.
“To change that is really difficult but I’m sure there will be times where we will defend deeply.”
Manchester United v PSG: Team News
United striker Rashford was rested in Saturday’s win over Fulham after struggling with a dead leg during training last week.
The England forward is expected to be fit for Tuesday’s game but Argentinian defender Marcus Rojo is unlikely to be ready for action.
Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian were also missing at the weekend with youngster Diego Dalot expected to be given the nod at right back once again.
PSG will be without Neymar, Cavani and Thomas Meunier – but Marco Veratti could feature for the French giants after making his first appearance for three weeks against Bordeaux.
Manchester United v PSG: Head-to-head
Incredibly, this will be the first competitive meeting between the two European powerhouses - although PSG did triumph 2-0 during a pre-season friendly in the summer of 2015 thanks to goals from Blaise Matuidi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Manchester United v PSG: Key Stats
• This will be the first competitive encounter between Manchester Utd and Paris SG. Four of the last five two-legged encounters between teams from England and France in the Champions League knockout phase have seen the French side progress.
• No French team has ever beaten Manchester Utd away from home in European competition (D4 L10). In the Champions League, only two French sides have avoided defeat at Old Trafford: Monaco in March 1998 (1-1), Lille in October 2005 (0-0).
• Paris SG have won only one of their 10 away games in all competitions against English opposition (D4 L5). It was a 2-1 victory against Chelsea in March 2016 in the round of 16, the last time they progressed through a knockout round of the Champions League.
• Manchester Utd have won only one of their last nine Champions League knockout games (D3 L5), it was against Olympiakos in March 2014 (3-0).
• Paris SG have reached the Champions League knockout stages for a seventh consecutive season, the longest current run after Real Madrid (22), Barcelona (15) and Bayern Munich (11). However, they have never progressed further than the quarter-finals in that time, dropping out at the round of 16 in each of the last two campaigns.
• Paris SG scored more goals than any other team in the Champions League group stages this season (17 in six games).
• 57% of Manchester Utd’s goals in the Champions League this season have been scored after the 85th minute (4 out of 7).
• Manchester Utd’s Old Trafford stadium witnessed the fewest goals in this season’s Champions League group stages (2 in 3 games).
• After scoring three goals in his first two Champions League games last season, Manchester Utd striker Romelu Lukaku has only found the net twice in his subsequent 11 appearances in the competition. He’s had two shots on target in 365 minutes this season.
• 69% of PSG forward Kylian Mbappe’s Champions League goals have come away from home (9/13), that’s the highest ratio in the competition for players with more than 10 goals in the competition.
• If he plays, this will be Marco Verratti’s 50th Champions League appearance. The Paris SG midfielder has as many goals (3) as red cards (3) in the competition.
• Among the 16 managers left in this season’s Champions League, Ole Gunnar Solskjær is one of three to have won it as a player (with Man Utd in 1999), alongside Pep Guardiola (with Barcelona in 1992) and Santi Solari (with Real Madrid in 2002).
Manchester United v PSG: Match Odds
Manchester United: 11/8
All odds correct with bet365 at time of writing