Manchester United’s last trip to the Parc des Princes was the greatest night of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s managerial career. That night in Paris further enhanced the Norwegian’s reputation amongst the Red Devils fanbase and a week later, he was awarded the permanent contract to manage Manchester United.
The comeback win at the Parc des Princes was another glorious night in Manchester United’s history in the European Cup. While results and performances since then have been inconsistent and Solskjaer is under pressure this season, he will always the night Paris to remember even if his time at Old Trafford as a manager ends in tears.
That night in Paris was also another tale of Paris Saint- Germain’s mental fragility in the Champions League. While they played the final last season, their ability to produce on the biggest stage of Europe’s top club competition remains under the scanner.
The two sides have been placed in the most treacherous of Champions League groups this season, with RB Leipzig and Istanbul Basaksehir making up the rest of Group H.
The first game between PSG and Manchester United on Tuesday night is likely to set the tone for the rest of the group.
The Premier League giants are not the favourites to win in Paris but Solskjaer is aware that three points at the Parc des Princes could be a massive boost for his side who are facing a treacherous set of games in the next few weeks.
A chance for PSG to bury the ghosts of their last meeting with Manchester United
The desolate faces of the PSG stars were palpable when the final whistle blew in the second leg of the Round of 16 tie in March 2019.
It was a game they were not supposed to lose. The Parisians won the first leg 2-0 at Old Trafford and no team had ever come back from a two-goal deficit in the home leg to win a Champions League or European Cup tie.
Manchester United were also without their top two stars in Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba and arrived in Paris with a makeshift backline. They ended the game with teenagers Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood on the pitch.
But Marcus Rashford’s injury-time goal meant Manchester United qualified for the quarter-finals at the expense of PSG. The shell-shocked expression of Neymar on the sidelines mirrored the feeling inside the Parc des Princes. Kylian Mbappe looked distraught, life had left Thomas Tuchel’s faces and the Manchester United players celebrated wildly with a delirious away section.
PSG dusted themselves off and made it to the Champions League final last season where they were beaten by Bayern Munich. The Parisians are the favourites to top Group H as well but the PSG players will remember the scenes against Manchester United.
It was a painful defeat to swallow as they had the tie all but won in the first leg but were picked off by Manchester United in the second leg by scoring goals at crucial stages of the game, including the stoppage time tie equaliser that won them the two-legged affair on away goals.
While a run to the Champions League last season must have eased some of the pain, the PSG players will have a point to prove when Manchester United take on the Parc des Princes turf on Tuesday night.
The question marks remain over the mentality of some of PSG’s top stars and beating Manchester United on Tuesday night would mean burying the ghost of their painful past.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United are in a different place compared to last year
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was still in his honeymoon period as Manchester United when the Red Devils beat PSG last year. He was still interim boss, the expectations on him and his side were low and a defeat at the Parc des Princes wouldn’t have mattered much.
But 19 months down the line, life is different for both Manchester United and Solskjaer. While the Red Devils finished third last season in the Premier League and qualified back for the Champions League, the Norwegian is yet to touch the highs of that night in Paris.
Following the win over PSG, Manchester United finished the season timidly and struggled to recreate the early months of Solskjaer’s reign. The Premier League giants also struggled for the majority of last season before ending the campaign on a high that got them a third-place finish and Champions League qualification.
A muddled transfer window ensued that saw Manchester United miss out on most of their top targets and ended up with them signing former PSG striker Edinson Cavani on a free transfer on deadline day.
A 4-1 win over Newcastle United at the weekend eased some of the pressure but Manchester United are nowhere close to their best at the moment. A 6-1 defeat at home to Tottenham has left scars that will take time to heal and they are set to embark on a horrid run of games that will see them face PSG, Chelsea, RB Leipzig, Arsenal, Istanbul Basaksehir and Everton.
There are already question marks over Solskjaer’s future at Manchester United and the rumours of the club lining up Mauricio Pochettino as his replacement have picked up pace in recent weeks.
The Norwegian is under pressure but a win at PSG in the opening group game could change the landscape of their season. Solskjaer is aware that many will hark back on what his side did the last time they were in Parc des Princes and he will hope that his players would be able to recapture the spirit they showed in March 2019.
A win at PSG could change the trajectory of Manchester United’s season but a defeat could begin the end of the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time as their manager.
It might seem on the surface but the stakes are high.