Monday 11 February 2019

Match preview: Man Utd v PSG

When the Champions League draw was made, Jose Mourinho was still in charge and the thought of facing PSG would've had every Red trembling in trepidation. A moribund and miserable United side wouldn't have a prayer against a side with such firepower. Two months on, and the size of the task facing United is still a dauting one, but one that we can approach with optimism. Mourinho was sacked a day after we were pulled out of the hat with French football's pre-eminent force.
Now, almost two months on, who would have thought that the Reds come into the first leg with PSG as, arguably, marginal favourites? Madness and heady days indeed.

Having seen their unbeaten league season ended at the hands of Lyon last week, Thomas Tuchel's side needed extra time to see off third division Villefranche in the French Cup. To add to that, two thirds of their first choice forward line are set to miss the first game at Old Trafford on Tuesday. Neymar is out until April with a metartarsal injury, and Uruguayan hitman Edinson Cavani (hip) is also a major doubt.
 That leaves World Cup-winning forward Kylian Mbappe - who replaced Cavani at the weekend - as the only fit member of their first-choice front three. Ex Man Utd man Angel Di Maria (ssssss) will start (I'm sure he'll get a, ahem, warm welcome), and Julian Draxler is likely to come in to fill the void left in the absence of the big hitting attacking duo.

Despite their domestic dominance - the Parisian giants continue to cut a swathe through the domestic French football scene - the cup with the big ears has become the sole obsession and the apple of president Nasser Al-Khelaifi's eye. They may have won Ligue 1 in five of the last six seasons, but PSG have failed to make a serious impact on the Champions League, having never progressed beyond the quarter finals in six attempts.

 In the first competitive meeting between the two sides, right-back Thomas Meunier is also out of the first leg with concussion but Marco Verratti is fit after an ankle problem.
United have almost a fully-fit squad, with Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian the only injury absentees. Marcus Rashford, Alexis Sanchez and Jesse Lingard are set to be recalled after they were dropped to the bench against Fulham on Saturday.  The battle between Rashford and Mbappe - two of the fastest and msot sought after players on the planet - looks particularly mouthwatering.

United head into Tuesday's game on the back of 10 wins in 11 matches, to climb back into the Premier League's top four and reach the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Interim boss Ole now wants to transfer this domestic form into Europe, and admitted it has been too long since Old Trafford enjoyed a big European night in the Champions League.

Solskjaer said: "Both the players and the supporters have been looking forward to some of these nights because they have always been special.
"Maybe my last one as a player]was when we beat Roma 7-1 in 2007, a typical Old Trafford night.
"We lost 2-1 away and the manager was so happy. He said, 'That's OK, we will win at home'.
"He was so confident in our abilities. I just want my players to go into this game confident and embrace it."

Form guide: Man Utd W W W D W W PSG W W W W L W
Match odds: Man Utd 13/5 Draw 12/3 PSG 5/2 (Bet365)
Referee: Daniele Orsato (Italy) 

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