Rash tango in Paris: Solskjaer delivers best game yet as Man Utd stun PSG again

FRANCK FIFE/AFP

Manchester United should not have beaten Paris Saint-Germain two seasons ago.

That miraculous comeback by that youthful side was resilient, spirited, but lucky – a result born of mindset rather than tactics from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, where 28 per cent of the ball and four shots on target somehow became a 3-1 win.

On Tuesday, when Marcus Rashford blasted home his second winning goal at Parc des Princes in as many visits, there was no great sense of incredulity, no vilifying of VAR; this time, Neymar's look of astonishment was aimed at his team's listless display, not at the officials from up in the stands.

That game in March 2019 may have got Solskjaer the permanent job, but this one showed what is expected, what is demanded of a United manager: going to Europe's elite and cowing them. His tiger-print-clad charges really earned their stripes.

PSG have their problems and that was laid bare in a sodden French capital. A midfield without Marco Verratti could not dictate; a defence without Marquinhos could not contain. Thomas Tuchel has already aired his grievances with sporting director Leonardo in public over their transfers and, after that performance, that relationship is unlikely to get any easier.

But that should not detract from United's success. That 6-1 humiliation to Tottenham two weeks ago suggested Solskjaer is a man without a plan, and with no players prepared to execute it even if he did. This will have driven some of the wolves from the door.

Solskjaer has often gone with a back three against stronger opponents who are expected to have more of the ball, but nobody will have expected Luke Shaw, Victor Lindelof and Axel Tuanzebe – whose only previous appearance in this competition was nearly three years ago – to play like this.

Tuanzebe, with seven clearances and just two misplaced passes all game, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who made six tackles and two interceptions, shut down the Neymar-Mbappe left-channel link-up in impetuous style. Ahead of the defence, Fred and Scott McTominay won back possession 15 times and contested 30 duels between them. They were so efficient, so effective with and without the ball, that it seemed to rub off on Paul Pogba; again consigned to a substitute role, he seemed positively enthused when he entered the fray and looked more authoritative than he has in weeks.

It meant PSG, despite having 61 per cent of the ball, managed only five shots on target throughout - one fewer than United. When they did breach the defence, they found a confident and competent David de Gea, who saved brilliantly from Layvin Kurzawa and Mbappe in each half. It took a bizarre header from Anthony Martial into his own net to get them on the scoreboard.

At the other end, Tuchel's men were a mess by comparison. Abdou Diallo's careless challenge on Martial, which allowed Bruno Fernandes to score from the spot at the second time of asking, was a moment of rashness that seemed to set the tone. Martial and Rashford broke at will upon the back four and could have put the game out of sight earlier, with Rashford producing an infuriatingly poor pass in a clear two-on-one.

Still, Rashford again had the final word. Whereas last year it was a nerveless penalty in front of the PSG ultras, this was a quick turn and thunderous low strike beyond Keylor Navas, a finish that deserved to be seen by fans in the ground.

This is a truly tough group but United have made a brilliant start. Unlike last time, this is just the start of their Champions League campaign, not the shock highlight towards its end.

Few would make United true contenders for the trophy, but this at least showed they have the nous to mix it with the favourites. Once again, Rashford was the hero in Paris, but this was Solskjaer's night.