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Three weeks after losing 2-0 at home to Paris Saint-Germain, a patched-up United side went to Parc des Princes and pulled off a historic 3-1 win
Football. Bloody hell!
The comeback of all comebacks. Forget what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did as a player on that famous night in 1999, this was a moment like never before.
You just don’t win from a two-goal home leg defeat. Not in the Champions League. But Manchester United, in the most dramatic of circumstances, did exactly that.
It came thanks to a very contentious VAR decision, but United’s 3-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain in the Parc des Princes was one of the most memorable nights in the long European history of a club which has been built around dramatic evenings on the continent.
Romelu Lukaku’s first-half brace had looked set to be nothing more than consolation fodder until Damir Skomina was advised by his video official to have another look at the deflection off Presnel Kimpembe’s elbow on Diogo Dalot’s goal-bound shot.
Marcus Rashford kept his head while all around him were losing theirs. He struck the ball with confidence and force, and even Gianluigi Buffon wasn’t going to keep it out.
With that, Solskjaer the last-gasp playing hero was a management king of the same mould.
They couldn’t have wished for a more perfect start, with Thilo Kehrer’s ill-judged pass across his own defence sending Lukaku free. The Belgian kept his cool to round Buffon and slide home from a narrow angle.
United couldn’t initially keep the pressure on, with PSG revelling in the space the visitors were leaving on their right side as Eric Bailly and Ashley Young looked completely ill at ease.
Juan Bernat was having a field day in the resulting gaps and unsurprisingly equalised after Kylian Mbappe spotted his far-post run.
But again United would take a lead out of nothing, with Rashford’s dipping shot leaving Buffon in two minds and the Italian could only spill the ball in the direction of Lukaku, who slotted home once more.
An injury to Bailly forced Solskjaer into a change he might have made anyway, with Dalot coming on and the Reds immediately looking a more organised prospect down their right.
There was far more structure and resilience about United’s play from that point, while every time they attacked there was a nervousness in evidence in the PSG back-line.
The only problem for United in the second half was that they didn’t get the sights of the PSG goal that they needed. With containment the first requirement, the hosts were happy enough to keep the ball for as long as United allowed them to have it.
Scott McTominay and Fred were both wonderful in the centre of midfield as United proved obdurate but also looked to give Rashford and Lukaku whatever they could in the way of service. Luke Shaw was again excellent, while Andreas Pereira was much more effective after the break too.
With 2-1 still the score and time running out United needing something more. Solskjaer threw on Tahith Chong and debutant Mason Greenwood and asked his players to give it one last big effort.
It wasn’t quite how he might have expected it but the moment arrived thanks to VAR, and United had done the unthinkable.
This United, under Solskjaer and with this character, with 10 first-team players missing, only went and did what had never been done before.