Big Match Feature: Man United v PSG

 Big Match Feature: Man United v PSG

Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain meet for the first time with a place in the Uefa Champions League quarterfinals the prize for the winners of their round of 16 tie.

While French champions Paris come into this contest having finished first in a strong Group C, United – who have replaced manager José Mourinho with Ole Gunnar Solskjær since the group stage – were the runners-up behind Juventus in Group H.

Both teams have suffered recent round of 16 disappointment. United have not reached the Uefa Champions League quarterfinals since 2013/14, while Paris’s last two campaigns have ended at this stage, at the hands of Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.

Manchester United

This is the English club’s 11th round of 16 tie (W6 L4), and their 18th participation in the Uefa Champions League knockout stages overall. Having lost their first two last-16 contests, United won all but one of the next seven before last season’s defeat by Sevilla.

In 2017/18 United drew the first leg at Sevilla 0-0 but were beaten 2-1 in the home second leg. That ended a 21- match unbeaten run in Europe at Old Trafford (W17 D4), since a 2-1 reverse against Real Madrid in the 2012/13 Uefa Champions League round of 16 second leg.

Those defeats against Sevilla and Madrid mean United have lost two of their last three home games at this stage of the Uefa Champions League. Their overall last-16 record at Old Trafford is W6 D1 L3.

United also failed to win their first two home games in this season’s group stage, drawing 0-0 with Valencia before a1-0 loss against Juventus; they ended that three-match sequence without a victory by beating Y oung Boys 1-0 on matchday five.

Despite concluding Group H with a 2-1 defeat at Valencia, United have lost just five of their last 26 European matches, home and away (W16 D5).

The Red Devils have won six of their seven two-legged knockout contests against French clubs. Solskjær scored in the sole defeat, against Monaco in the 1997/98 Uefa Champions League quarterfinals (0-0 away, 1-1 home).

Most recently, United overcame St-Étienne in the round of 32 in their victorious 2016/17 Uefa Europa League campaign, winning 3-0 at home and 1-0 away.

That made it three successive victories against French sides, home and away, for United, who are unbeaten in their last eight matches (W6 D2). They have never lost at home to Ligue 1 opponents; their record is W10 D3.

This is Solskjær’s first tie in the Uefa Champions League proper as a coach; he oversaw eight qualifiers while in charge of Molde (W3 D4 L1). He took the Norwegian club into the Uefa Europa League group stage in 2012/13, and into the round of 32 of that competition three years later.


This is Paris’s seventh successive Uefa Champions League campaign and they have reached the round of 16 on each occasion – although they are yet to match their 1994/95 achievement of reaching the semifinals.

After four successive quarterfinal appearances between 2013 and 2016, Paris have lost at this stage in each of the last two seasons. In 2017/18 they went down 5-2 on aggregate to Real Madrid (1-3 away, 1-2 home); 12 months earlier, they had looked set for the quarterfinals after a 4-0 first-leg defeat of Barcelona at the Parc des Princes, only to go down 6-1 in Spain – a Uefa Champions League record comeback.

Paris’s round of 16 record is therefore W4 L2.

Paris have won three of their six two-legged knockout ties against Premier League clubs although the most recent ended in defeat against United’s local rivals Manchester City in the 2015/16 quarterfinals (2-2 home, 0-1 away). That second leg is also the last Uefa Champions League match in which Paris failed to score; they have found the net in all 22 matches since.

The French club have twice beaten English opposition at this stage of the Uefa Champions League, overcoming Chelsea in both 2014/15 (1-1 home, 2-2 away) and 2015/16 (2-1 home, 2-1 away).

Paris have already lost in England this season, going down 3-2 at Liverpool on matchday one. A 2-1 win at home against the Merseyside club on matchday five was their first success in six matches against English clubs (D3 L2).

The 2016 success at Chelsea is Paris’s only win away to an English club; their record otherwise is D4 L5.

Paris picked up four points on their travels in Group C this season, drawing at Napoli (1-1) before a 4-1 victory at Crvena zvezda on matchday six – just their third success in their last nine away Uefa Champions League fixtures (D2 L4).

Despite beating Liverpool and Crvena zvezda in their last two group games, Paris have won only three of their last nine Uefa Champions League matches (D2 L4).

Links and Trivia

Ángel Di María spent 2014/15 at United, scoring three goals in 27 Premier League appearances before leaving for Paris.

• Have also played in England:

Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting (Stoke 2017/18)

Lassana Diarra (Chelsea 2005–07, Arsenal 2007/08, Portsmouth 2008/09)

• Have played in France:

Anthony Martial (Lyon 2012/13, Monaco 2013–15)

Sergio Romero (Monaco 2013/14)

• Have played together:

Paul Pogba & Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus 2012–16)

Alexis Sánchez & Dani Alves (Barcelona, 2011–14)

Alexis Sánchez & Neymar (Barcelona, 2013/14)

Anthony Martial & Layvin Kurzawa (Monaco, 2013–15)

Sergio Romero & Layvin Kurzawa (Monaco 2013/14)

• International teammates:

Matteo Darmian & Gianluigi Buffon, Marco Verratti (Italy)

Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial & Alphonse Areola, Pascal Kimpembe, Layvin Kurzawa, Lassana Diarra, Adrien Rabiot,

Kylian Mbappé (France)

Fred & Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Dani Alves, Neymar (Brazil)

Romelu Lukaku & Thomas Meunier (Belgium)

David de Gea, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera & Juan Bernat (Spain)

Sergio Romero, Marcos Rojo & Ángel Di María, Leandro Paredes (Argentina)

Pogba, Areola, Kimpembe and Mbappé were all in France’s victorious Fifa World Cup squad last summer.

Mbappé scored twice in France’s round of 16 win against Rojo’s Argentina at Russia 2018, and was fouled by the United defender to win a penalty.

Meunier scored Belgium’s opening goal in the third-place play-off win against England at the 2018 World Cup. Phil Jones started the game with Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard coming on at halftime.

Latest news

Manchester United

• Uefa Champions League squad changes

In: None

Out: Marouane Fellaini

United’s first game after matchday six was a 3-1 loss at Liverpool on 16 December, but they have since won ten of their 11 matches in all competitions, including Saturday’s 3-0 success at Fulham.

Paul Pogba scored twice at Fulham to take his league total for the season to 11 goals – the first time in his career he has reached double figures in a campaign. Eight of those goals have come in the last eight matches.

The loss at Liverpool proved to be José Mourinho’s last match in charge of United; the Portuguese manager was dismissed two days later, and on 19 December former Red Devils striker Ole Gunnar Solskjær was appointed until the end of the season.

Solskjær won his first eight games – the best start for a manager in United’s history.

United are unbeaten at Old Trafford since the 1-0 loss to Juventus on matchday three; their record since is W7 D3.

Overall at home this season, United’s home record is W9 D6 L2.

The Red Devils have scored in their last 17 matches in all competitions.

Marcos Rojo has not played since matchday six – only his third appearance of the season – after suffering a knock.

On 31 January Anthony Martial signed a contract keeping him at Old Trafford until summer 2024. Scott McTominay (2023) has also pledged his long-term future to the club.


• Uefa Champions League squad changes

In: Leandro Paredes, Metehan Güçlü

Out: Tim Weah, Yacine Adli

Marco Verratti’s next European match will be his 50th appearance in both the Uefa Champions League, group stage to final, and Uefa club competition overall.

Paris have won nine and lost two of their 11 games in all competitions since matchday six, scoring 31 goals and conceding only six. They beat Bordeaux 1-0 on Saturday.

Thomas Tuchel’s side suffered their first Ligue 1 defeat of the season on 3 February, going down 2-1 at Lyon in their 21st fixture (W18 D2).

Leandro Paredes, who joined from Zenit in January, made his Paris debut as a late substitute in Lyon.

Paris defeated Guingamp 9-0 on 19 January, the club’s biggest ever home win, with Kylian Mbappé and Edinson Cavani both scoring hat-tricks.

That made Cavani the first player to score 100 goals at the Parc des Princes – he now has 105 having also scored the only goal against Bordeaux at the weekend before going off at the break with a leg injury.

Mbappé, who turned 20 on 20 December, has 18 goals and five assists in Ligue 1 this season.

After 21 wins in a row and five successive triumphs in the competition between 2014 and 2018, Paris lost 2-1 at home to Guingamp in the French League Cup quarterfinals on 9 January. It was also their first domestic loss of the season and their first domestic cup defeat in 45 games.

Paris do remain on course for a record fifth successive French Cup triumph, although they needed extra time to beat third division Villefranche Beaujolais 3-0 in the last 16 on 6 February. They will face Dijon in the quarterfinals.

Neymar, who scored five goals in the group stage, was ruled out for ten weeks after injuring his right foot during the French Cup game against Strasbourg on 23 January.

Verratti had been out since injuring his left ankle against Guingamp on 19 January before returning to play 59 minutes against Bordeaux.

Layvin Kurzawa made his first appearance since May on 6 January after recovering from a back injury.

On 20 December, goalkeeper Alphonse Areola extended his contract until June 2023.

Gianluigi Buffon was the oldest player to appear in this season’s group stage. He was aged 40 years and 317 days when he faced Crvena zvezda in Belgrade on matchday six.

Video Assistant Referees (VAR) will be introduced into the Uefa Champions League from this round. The

VAR will be used in order to support the referee when making decisions concerning four match-changing


  1. Goals

  2. Incidents in the penalty area

  3. Red cards

  4. Mistaken identity

The VAR will inform the referee when there is evidence of a clear and obvious mistake in one of these matchchanging situations. The referee can then use the review area next to the pitch to take a final decision. The VAR is also able to take into account any infringement that could have taken place in the immediate build-up to the incident (the attacking phase of play).

Decisions like offside or whether a foul was committed inside or outside the penalty area will be

recommended to the referee directly by the VAR and no on-field review necessarily takes place in such cases.

The on-field review process will be communicated within the stadium using either the stadium screens or the public announcement system.

Head Coach

Ole Gunnar Solskjær

Date of birth: 26 February 1973

Nationality: Norwegian

Playing career: Clausenengen, Molde, Manchester United

Coaching career: Manchester United (reserves), Molde (twice), Cardiff, Manchester United (caretaker)

The scorer of one of the most famous goals in Manchester United’s history, Solskjær returned to Old Trafford on 19 December 2018, taking over as manager for the remainder of the season following the departure of José Mourinho.

The predatory striker’s senior playing career began with Norwegian third division side Clausenegen before a move to Molde in last 1994 caught the attention of United, who swooped for his signature 18 months later. Proved an immediate hit in England, scoring 18 league goals in his first season as the Red Devils retained the title.

Enjoyed a brilliant 1998/99 season; twice scored four times in a league game and won the FA Cup before United completed the treble by beating Bayern München in the Uefa Champions League final with two goals in added time, Solskjær coming off the bench to score the winner.

Won further league titles in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2007, also lifting the 2004 FA Cup, and scored 23 times in 67 games for Norway, featuring at the 1998 Fifa World Cup and Uefa EURO 2000; he was forced to retire in 2007 by a knee injury and promptly moved into coaching with United, earning his badges and spending two years in charge of the reserves.

Took over as Molde boss in November 2010, winning the Norwegian title in his first season – the club’s maiden championship. Molde retained the title in 2012 and won the Norwegian Cup the following year, Solskjær subsequently departing for a short, unsuccessful stint in charge of Cardiff, whom he was unable to save from Premier League relegation; returned to Molde in October 2015 before United again came calling three years later.

Thomas Tuchel

Date of birth: 29 August 1973

Nationality: German

Playing career: Augsburg U19s, Stuttgarter Kickers, Ulm

Coaching career: Stuttgart (youth coach and U19s assistant coach), Augsburg (U19s, academy coordinator and reserves), Mainz (U19s and first-team head coach), Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain

Tuchel had a fairly undistinguished playing career, retiring prematurely in 1998 due to injury. His first off-pitch role was with the Stuttgart youth team. He subsequently joined Augsburg, where he coached the U19s and reserve sides as well as serving as academy coordinator.

Tuchel moved to Mainz in 2008 and was initially in charge of the U19s, whom he led to a German title. A year after joining the club, Tuchel succeeded Jørn Andersen as coach of the senior team. He went on to qualify twice for the

Uefa Europa League, though Mainz were eliminated at the third qualifying round stage on both occasions.

He took over from Jürgen Klopp in the Dortmund dugout prior to the 2015/16 campaign and led his side to the Uefa Europa League quarterfinals, where they came up against Klopp’s Liverpool team – and lost 5-4 on aggregate.

Dortmund fared well under Tuchel in the Bundesliga in 2015/16, racking up 78 points to finish second behind Bayern München and qualify automatically for the 2016/17 Uefa Champions League group stage. They were also beaten by Bayern in the German Cup final in Tuchel’s debut season.

Tuchel’s first coaching honour followed in 2016/17, Dortmund overcoming Eintracht Frankfurt 3-1 in the German Cup final in what proved to be his last match in charge; he left the club three days later and returned to football 12 months later, signing a two-year deal to replace Unai Emery at Paris/Supersport.

The Independent Observer

John Sakala is a Journalist yearning for independent journalism

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