Manuel Veth and Andrew Flint –
Manchester United vs Paris – Tuesday, February 12, 20:00GMT/21:00CET – Old Trafford, Manchester, England
Manchester United were the outsiders when they were drawn against Paris Saint-Germain in December. But back then José Mourinho had been on the bench, and the Red Devils were struggling. But after Mourinho was fired in December, they have since won ten of their 11 matches in all competitions, including Saturday’s 3-0 success at Fulham.
The main difference to how United have been playing is the speed with which they move the ball forwards. Down the left flank, Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba have combined in triangles to outnumber opposition, and it has worked brilliantly. Just look at Pogba’s numbers for goals, assists, key passes and heat map positions.
In fact, United have been strange to watch, but Solskjær has played Romelu Lukaku out wide on occasion against teams that usually have more possession than United. The idea has been to offer a quicker transition out wide where Lukaku uses his strength to win balls more easily against full-backs than he might against centre-backs, and bring in quicker support runners like Rashford, Martial or Lingard.
The only uncertainty is whether the head coach will pick Lingard ahead of Lukaku to start with; either way, Lukaku will play a large part at some point. It is likely that Solskjær will target PSG’s full-backs, especially now that Meunier is also out injured.
Injuries, in fact, have been Thomas Tuchel’s main concern going into this match. The German head coach will be without Brazilian star Neymar, he fractured his fifth metatarsal for the second time in his career in January and will be out for two months. On Saturday PSG also lost the mentioned-above Meunier, and even more critically, top striker Edinson Cavani.
“The treatment of this injury and the length of his unavailability will depend on the evolution of the injury over the coming days,” Thomas Tuchel told ESPN. Meanwhile, Marco Verratti is expected to return relieving some of the pressure on the injury front for Tuchel. Now we have to use our Plan B against Manchester,” Tuchel told the media after the game.
Julian Draxler, Thilo Kehrer and former Bayern wing-back Juan Bernat all joined Angel di Maria on the bench as Tuchel rested his players for the game against United. Furthermore, Kylian Mbappé was on the bench until he had to come on to replace the injured Cavani. Overall, PSG should still have enough quality to hurt United but Old Trafford has been a different place since Solskjær has taken over and without Cavani and Neymar United will have a good chance to get a positive result to take back to France.
Manchester United vs Paris – Players to look out for:
Ander Herrera #21 – Manchester United
Herrera would be arguably the man to watch. Under Mourinho, he played in a similar role but with more limitations on his time on the ball. Now he is still a destroyer, but he is more positive in his passing and quicker to recover possession. Playing a number eight role in Solskjær’s 4-3-3 formation the Spaniard has completed 89.3% of his on average 54.42 passes on average and has been a crucial component for United.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting #17 – Paris Saint-Germain
How will Thomas Tuchel replace Edinson Cavani? The Uruguayan forward, after all, has scored 17 goals in 16 Ligue 1 games this season. Without a doubt, Mbappé will return in the lineup but while the French teenage sensation has scored 18 goals in 17 Ligue 1 games this season he lacks the physical presence that Cavani brings to this side. Hence, Tuchel could opt to start Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting next to Mbappé in what will likely be a 3-1-4-2 formation. Because even though Choupo-Moting lacks the pure goalscoring ability he has the physical presence to create room for Mbappé and the other attacking players in the lineup and also has the experience of playing at Old Trafford from his time at Stoke.
Manchester United vs Paris – Match Stats
- Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain meet for the first time with a place in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals the prize for the winners of their round of 16 tie.
- 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).
- 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 quarter-finals (0-0 away, 1-1 home).
- 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 semi-finals.
- After four successive quarter-final appearances between 2013 and 2016, Paris have lost at this stage in each of the last two seasons. Paris’s round of 16 record is, therefore, W4 L2.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Manchester United vs Paris – 2-1
Manchester United vs Paris – Lineups
De Gea – Young, Jones, Lindelof, Shaw – Herrera, Matic, Pogba – Lukaku, Rashford, Martial
Head Coach: Ole Gunnar Solskjær
Buffon – Kimpembe, Kehrer, Silva – Marquinhos – Bernat, Draxler, Verratti, Di Maria – Mbappé, Choupo-Moting
Head Coach: Thomas Tuchel
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.
Andrew Flint is an English freelance football writer living in Tyumen, Western Siberia, with his wife and two daughters. He has featured on These Football Times, Russian Football News, Four Four Two and Sovetski Sport, mostly focusing on full-length articles about derbies, youth development and the game in Russia. Due to his love for FC Tyumen, he is particularly interested in lower league Russian football and is looking to establish himself in time for the 2018 World Cup. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMijFlint.