Home Sport EIGHT THINGS WE LEARNED from Manchester's United defeat of PSG

EIGHT THINGS WE LEARNED from Manchester's United defeat of PSG


Marcus Rashford proved history can repeat itself as he was once again the hero against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side travelled to the French capital buoyed by their last visit to the Parc des Princes when a late Rashford penalty snatched a dramatic victory in the last-16 last year. 

This time round it was strike from outside the area that sealed a 2-1 win and United drew plenty of plaudits for their performance. 

Marcus Rashford was the hero in Paris as his late strike secured three points for Man United

Marcus Rashford was the hero in Paris as his late strike secured three points for Man United

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe flattered to deceive on the biggest stage and questions will be asked as to why PSG’s two stars fell so short when the side needed them most.  

There were plenty of other sub-plots, namely the impressive showing from young defender Axel Tuanzebe. The 22-year-old dominated Mbappe on his first match in 10 months and staked a very strong claim to retain his place in the side going forward. 

Sportsmail picks out eight things that emerged from United’s confidant victory on Tuesday night.  

Tuanzebe is ready to step-up

For his first match in 10 months, starting back up against Mbappe and Neymar was about as tough as it could have got for Tuanzebe. 

And yet, he emerged as the star of the show for United on a night littered with positives from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. 

‘It was an unbelievable performance from Axel,’ Solskjaer said. ‘Absolutely spot on.’ 

Axel Tuanzebe (left) was really impressive in his task of keeping Kylian Mbappe (right) quiet

Axel Tuanzebe (left) was really impressive in his task of keeping Kylian Mbappe (right) quiet 

The 22-year-old (middle) made a game-high seven clearances in his impressive performance

The 22-year-old (middle) made a game-high seven clearances in his impressive performance

The 22-year-old operated on the right of a back three and was largely tasked with keeping Mbappe in check, a job he did superbly.

With captain Harry Maguire missing from the Paris trip, Tuanzebe stepped up and made seven clearances across 90 minutes – the most of any player on the pitch. 

Tuanzebe, who showed brilliant acceleration to stride for stride with Mbappe all night, also made 22 passes at a success rate of 92 per cent. He also won 100 per cent of his aerial duels. 

‘We know he’s a good player,’ Solskjaer said. ‘But to do it on a night like this is fantastic.’ 

Now the question is, can Tuanzebe consolidate his place in the side long term? He couldn’t have put in a better audition.  

De Gea still has plenty in the tank

Dean Henderson’s return from his loan at Sheffield United ramped up the pressure and this was the strongest response yet from David de Gea to say he is not done yet.

The Spaniard has had a couple of difficult seasons at Old Trafford with a number of high-profile mistakes. 

But when it came to Tuesday night in Paris, De Gea made a string of fine saves to keep United in a game they eventually went on to win. 

David de Gea showed he still has plenty to offer as Manchester United's No 1 goalkeeper

David de Gea showed he still has plenty to offer as Manchester United’s No 1 goalkeeper

De Gea produced a number of crucial saves in United's Champions League opening match

De Gea produced a number of crucial saves in United’s Champions League opening match 

‘People wonder why [Dean] Henderson was kept around, and it was to push David [De Gea],’ former United midfielder Darren Fletcher told BT Sport after the game. 

‘[Sergio] Romero was always happy to be number two. His performance tonight was fantastic. Dean Henderson is a threat but he has a lot to learn.’

Ex-United defender Rio Ferdinand went on to praise Solskjaer for sticking by his man so far this season. 

‘He [David de Gea] had a period where he was making mistakes, it wasn’t just one game,’ Ferdinand said. ‘But Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] backed him, so Ole deserves credit too.’

Mbappe lost in exit talk 

There was a lot said in France this week about how the time is ticking on Mbappe and PSG’s relationship. 

He is yet to sign a new contract and with his deal up in 2022, he may be on the move next summer if no fresh terms are agreed and so Europe’s elite are monitoring the French striker with interest.  

But Tuesday night is unlikely to be one that lives long in the memory after he was shackled smartly by United’s back three. 

Mbappe was shackled and struggled to find any rhythm as he disappointed in the 2-1 defeat

Mbappe was shackled and struggled to find any rhythm as he disappointed in the 2-1 defeat

L'Equipe's cover on Wednesday focused on 'unrecognisable' Mbappe due to his struggles

L’Equipe’s cover on Wednesday focused on ‘unrecognisable’ Mbappe due to his struggles

Mbappe was the cover star of L’Equipe’s ‘Unrecognisable’ cover for Wednesday’s edition and eyebrows were raised as to whether his mind is already elsewhere. 

Tuanzebe kept him in check all night and while Mbappe is unquestionably brilliant, one stat has people scratching their heads in Paris. 

Since the start of the 2018-19 season, Mbappe has scored just two Champions League goals at Parc des Princes. Just as many as Rashford has.

If this is Mbappe’s last season with PSG, he needs to go out swinging because Tuesday night was a clear sign of what happens if his mind dares to wander. 

Is the writing ALREADY on the wall for Tuchel?

Falling out with director Leonardo over their business in the transfer market, losing twice already in Ligue 1 and now losing their opening game of the Champions League group stage. 

Things, it is fair to say, have been better for Thomas Tuchel.

 It was only in September when reports emerged that PSG’s dressing room was ‘losing faith’ in the German and defeat to United won’t help his case.

Thomas Tuchel is under mounting pressure to deliver and defeat to United only ramps that up

Thomas Tuchel is under mounting pressure to deliver and defeat to United only ramps that up

His tactics of funnelling attacks through Neymar are said to have grated and the blunted nature of their display against United highlighted his lack of tactical nous in comparison to Solskjaer, who cleverly changed formation before going on to win the game.

PSG expect to dominate the domestic game in France and so the true measuring stick will be the Champions League.

If defeat to United is nothing more than a bump in the road, he has nothing to worry about.

But if Group H goes from bad to worse in the weeks to come, Tuchel may find himself out of a job. No pressure, Thomas… 

Rashford is built for the big occasion

This is what is expected if you want to be considered world class. 

It is what is expected of Neymar and Mbappe every time they take to the pitch. Provide ‘the’ moment. The match-winning contribution.

And yet here was Wythenshawe’s own Rashford proving he – not Neymar or Mbappe – is the striker built for the biggest moments. 

Having the composure to net that decisive penalty in 2019 showed an immense amount of spirit but his goal on Tuesday night was different. 

He collected the ball from Pogba, shifted it out of his feet and gave Keylor Navas no chance diving down to his right. 

No player on the pitch channelled the pressure in the final stages as brilliantly as Rashford

No player on the pitch channelled the pressure in the final stages as brilliantly as Rashford

It nestled into the bottom corner and United knew then he had won them the game as he slid on his knees in celebration. 

Rashford’s consistency is what gets brought up and a ‘poacher’s element’ is all that stops him from being widely considered a ‘world class’ talent, says Ferdinand.

‘I think this kid could be world class, he needs to add a poacher’s element, a couple of scruffy goals a season,’ he said on BT Sport.

‘Wayne Rooney scored outrageous goals when he joined United, he didn’t score ugly goals but then he got that into his game to add to his repertoire. If he [Rashford] can get that ugly side, this kid can go on to be unbelievable.’   

If Rashford proved anything on Tuesday night it was that he’s built differently to those around him. No one thrives off pressure quite like the 22-year-old. 

…while Neymar flatters to deceive (again) 

And it was Rashford’s success that once again pointed to the fundamental flaws of a man that cost £198m more.

Again, Neymar, a supremely gifted footballer and arguably the most talented any time he takes to the pitch, wilted when his side needed him most.

He was left in tears at losing the Champions League final to Bayern Munich in Lisbon and the hope was that the hurt would drive the Brazilian to even greater heights now he had come so close with the French side. 

Neymar flattered to deceive when PSG needed him most and questions are being asked

Neymar flattered to deceive when PSG needed him most and questions are being asked

But once again it was a performance that flattered to deceive.

In fact, Tuchel described it as ‘one of the worst’ performances during his two years in charge, as he gave a scathing assessment of his superstars.

Neymar was prised from Barcelona to deliver the Champions League. 

And while Tuesday night was one game, one defeat, there are fans asking whether he will ever be able to take the Parisians all the way. 

If his performance against United is anything to go by, Neymar and PSG are going nowhere fast. 

Paris late show buys Solskjaer time with Cavani

While Anthony Martial struggled in Paris, victory, coupled with the fact Mason Greenwood was left at home, eased the crisis around Solskjaer’s stunted attack.

Edinson Cavani arrived on deadline day but Rashford’s match-winning contribution has lessened the need to fast-track the Uruguayan straight into the side.

Cavani went viral for a training ground discussion with Tuanzebe and whatever was said clearly worked as the young defender dominated his dual with Mbappe.

United will get plenty of use out of Cavani but Solskjaer now has the luxury of sticking, rather than twisting, for the coming weeks as the former PSG striker gets up to speed.

What a difference a week can make for a manager, hey? 

Edinson Cavani has been hard at work in training but Solskjaer knows he can ease him in

Edinson Cavani has been hard at work in training but Solskjaer knows he can ease him in

Lack of depth killing PSG

To cut Tuchel some slack, he was taking on United with one hand tied behind his back.  

Both first choice full-backs out, Marquinhos not fit enough to start and no Marco Verratti in his midfield. 

As Tuchel looked down his bench it was flooded with youth and inexperience, far from ideal with the game in the balance against an impressive United side.

He saw Kays Ruiz-Atil (18), Timothee Pembele (18), Bandiougou Fadiga (19), Mitchel Bakker (20), Moise Kean (20) and Colin Dagba (22).

In contrast United were able to turn to Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata and Odion Ighalo, depth with plenty of experience.

So if PSG are going to make any waves in this year’s tournament, they need to both arrest their injury crisis and make some moves in January or this could be a lot shorter of a campaign for Tuchel and his A-List attackers. 

Colin Dagba (left) was one of the more experienced players available on the PSG subs' bench

Colin Dagba (left) was one of the more experienced players available on the PSG subs’ bench

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