Marcus Rashford returned to the scene of the crime and inflicted familiar heartbreak on Paris St. Germain with a late winner in France, as Manchester United pulled off an impressive upset victory to start their Champions League campaign.
Rashford had endured a frustrating night but with just 3 minutes left he scored a fine effort from the edge of the box. Following Bruno Fernandes first-half penalty, it gave his side a 2-1 win – a victory fully deserved for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team.
But Solskjaer too deserved plenty of praise for a tactical plan and in-game changes which saw his team control against last season’s beaten finalists.
It was a nervy beginning. De Gea was called into action twice just after the ten minute mark when Di Maria and then Kurzawa forced saves – the second in particular was a fine reaction stop.
But United improved in their composure and the hosts looked vulnerable. Defensively and in midfield it looked as if the visitors ought not to be afraid. Midway through the first half, a ball into the box got Anthony Martial on the turn. Diallo clumsily brought him down.
Bruno Fernandes stepped up to take the kick but Keylor Navas saved. There was a reprieve when Navas had been caught coming off his line. A retake was awarded. This time, Bruno went in the same place, but Navas didn’t, and United had a lead nobody expected.
Fernandes went closest for United before half-time with a long range effort that stung the palms of Navas. It had been a very comfortable first 45 for Solskjaer’s side. The manager could take a lot of the credit for the formation he had put together, and also the gamble with his selections. Axel Tuanzebe had a very composed half with one tackle in particular on Mbappe.
United were playing to their strengths and also compensating for their weaknesses and not allowing them to be exploited. Goal-kicks were being taken long and not short to invite pressure.
The second half started at some pace. Rashford was put through by Fernandes but was wasteful when trying to find Martial. Paris broke and Mbappe drew an exceptional save from De Gea.
And then the hapless luck of United struck again – having conceded a freak goal at the weekend, they did it again when Martial, under no pressure, headed into his own net from a corner. A rocky spell followed – Wan-Bissaka had to be alert for a fine challenge on Mbappe – but then United attacked and had chances through Rashford and Martial.
With 11 minutes to go Fernandes played Rashford in but the England striker fired comfortably at Navas. Neymar then did similar at De Gea as the game of tit-for-tat continued.
In the 87th minute Rashford finally came good after a frustrating night – taking a Pogba pass, finding space on the edge of the box and drilling in off the post to score in the same goal he famously netted in last year.
Marcus Rashford’s winning goalpic.twitter.com/A7WBJxxyMm
— MailOnline Sport (@MailSport) October 20, 2020
This was United’s hardest game of the group on paper. It was a huge boost for Solskjaer at a time he needed it most.
Solskjaer had his hands tied by the defensive injury issues, but still made a choice to play a three man defence. This impacted his midfield selection and once more Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek started from the bench.
It was also bold to play Axel Tuanzebe and seemed to be an indication – considering the way Lindelof and Bailly have already been tried, and we’ve seen how they’ve failed – that this was an opportunity for Axel to fast-track his way into the team. But what an opponent to do it against.
It has been a point raised by this writer on more than one occasion that Solskjaer’s squad is weak enough to justify different selections and tactical plans in every game, not just the tough ones. When you see what United are capable of on nights like tonight, it gives genuine hope for things moving in the right direction. One game at a time, though.
De Gea 8
Van De Beek