After a win on their Premier League return, United now are back in the Champions League, visiting the location of their last win in the competition, and it was a big one.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær enshrined his name in the Old Trafford history books as a manager with an astonishing second leg comeback against Thomas Tuchel’s PSG 18 months ago, but things are a bit different this time around.
Last year’s losing finalists are the hosts for this memory-fuelled match as Europe’s elite knockout tournament begins again.
Kick-off: 20:00 [BST]
Venue: Parc de Princes
Referee: Antonio Mateuo
Other Group H fixture: RB Leipzig vs İstanbul BaşakşehirEmbed from Getty Images
Having almost made it to their ultimate goal of lifting the famous trophy in August, Qatar Sports Investments & co. will be hoping to all the way this year.
Bayern Munich beat them 1-0 in Lisbon after surprisingly spirited quarter and semi-final wins against Atalanta and fellow corporate-controlled club RB Leipzig – who are also in this group.
Frustration off the pitch followed in the fallout, as public tensions built between sporting director Leonardo and manager Tuchel, who was backed with a host of B-grade signings to bolster his squad.
On deadline day, Moise Kean (on loan) and Raphina cane in from Everton and Barcelona respectively, while 29-year-old Portugal international Danilo Pereira had already arrived from Porto on the cheap.
Their highlight was making 12-goal striker Mauro Icardi’s stay permanent for £50m but they did see two key men depart.
PSG lost two club legends; long-time captain Thiago Silva and all-time leading goalscorer Édinson Cavani – wonder what he’s up to now.
Nevertheless, despite the doubters, the Parisiens showed they can indeed make it until the end of the tournament, something they’ll surely believe again.
And who better to show it against than the last team who prematurely knocked them out in a stunning round-of-16 loss, United?
Fans have recently attended French top-flight matches but this one will be played behind closed doors.
Ligue 1 position: 2nd
Previous result: Nimes 0-4 PSG (Mbappé x2, Florenzi, Sarabia)
Top goalscorer: Kylian Mbappé (4)
Most assists: Kylian Mbappé/Pablo Sarabia (3)
One to watch: Neymar
Star-studded and undeniably outstanding in their own division, the shift up in gears has always been a sticking point for PSG over the years.
Dominating and demolishing Ligue 1 each year, they didn’t even have to finish the term to be crowned champions last time out, winning their seventh league title in eight years.
However, the most decorated French side haven’t had it easy this time out.
With every from self-discipline issues to self-isolation frustration, their start to the season saw them lose their opening two games.
After the duo of defeats, though, five wins have followed with an aggregate score of 16-1.
Kylian Mbappé has lead the line like no other 21-year-old on the planet and parter in crime Neymar is fine form.
The 28-year-old Brazilian boasts five goals and three assists in his last trio of outings for club and country, and was infamously outraged when these teams last met as he watched from sidelines due to injury.
Fellow South American Ángel Di María should start up top with them over Spaniard Pablo Sarabia, who’s tactical versatility could come in handy late on.
The nine-time French champions’ front line has always flourished but it’s been their change in attitude elsewhere which has seen them improve on the continent’s greatest stage.
Operating in a more organised style, Tuchel employers a gritty, grafting midfield in a flat 4-3-3 to get the job done, with Premier League exports Idrissa Gana Gueye and former Red Devil Ander Herrera holding it down.
For bigger games, the pair are usually alongside centre-half-turned-holding midfielder and new captain Marquinhos, who returned to training alongside German playmaker Julian Draxler this week.
Playmaker Marco Verratti will miss out and although he’s one of the best technicians in the game, sporadically featured in their Lisbon run due to Tuchel’s typically pragmatic approach.
20-year-old left-back Mitchel Bakker, a product of Ajax’s academy has proven himself a vital cog in their Qatar-funded machine, starting all five of those wins after being on the bench for their early loses.
His arrival onto the first-team scene and their subsequent defensively solidity seems no fluke, as the Dutchman has had praised heaped on him, being named on the Golden Boy shortlist.
However, even with his talent in mind, he could face a first tough test of his career this evening, unless Layvin Kurzawa gets the nod.
Abdou Diallo should partner Prensel Kimpbembe – scorer of PSG’s first away goal at Old Trafford in the February 2019 first leg – to make a left-footed heart of defence.
One summer signing who underwhelming upon unveiling and has proven many wrong by producing will play on the other side of the defence.
Italy’s first-choice right-bank Alessandro Florenzi has scored in each of the Parisien’s last two outings and, for better or worse, focusses heavily on his attacking output.
Keylor Navas will be between the posts, and knows all about the competition, winning it three times with Real Madrid in the past.
PSG haven’t lost a home group game since 2004 and have won all four games at their stadium since their infamous fatal loss to United.
Injuries/suspensions (estimated return)
- Juan Bernat – Cruciate ligament (six months)
- Julian Draxler – knock (back in training)
- Thilo Kehrer – groin (one week)
- Mauro Icardi – knee ligament (two weeks)
- Marquinhos – thigh (back in training)
- Leandro Paredes – thigh (two weeks)
- Danilo Pereira – quarantine (a few weeks)
- Marco Verratti – quadricep (a few days)
(4-3-3) Navas; Florenzi, Diallo, Kimpembe, Bakker; Gueye, Herrera, Raphina; Di María, Mbappé, Neymar
Quote from the boss
“It [United]’s one of the best teams playing in transitions and we have to try and stop these fast breaks, we need to keep the ball, show our style, impose this game, be structured and keep putting pressure and stop the game before the counter-attack.” – Thomas Tuchel
Next match: Dijon [H] – Saturday, 24 October
THE RED DEVILS
An in the end comfortable 4-1 weekend win at Newcastle has boosted confidence but the real business of a truly testing run of fixtures starts now.
Chelsea, Leipzig and Arsenal follow this which is another crucial one in the jam-packed calendar.
The last time the Red Devils were in the French capital, Solskjær cemented his role as permanent United boss with a 1-3 (3-3) win.
It came courtesy of a Romelu Lukaku brace, before Marcus Rashford – then not an MBE but a 21-year-old academy graduate – stepped up to seal an incredible comeback and send his side through to face Barcelona, who were victorious in the quarter-finals.
The team that played that night are largely different to this squad but the same spirit and never-say-die attitude will more than likely have to be installed if the Reds are to come out on top in this group opener.
On that match in his pre-match press conference yesterday, Solskjær said: “It’s history for us, it’s in the past.
“[It’s] great history, a great game but it has no impact on this game. We know we’re a different team, they’re a different team and it’s a different stage of the competition.
Also, without fans it’s going to be different. I thought in the last game when we got the first goal early on, that impacted the crowd.
“It’s a whole new situation.”
United have won just one Champions League group stage match in France, losing three and drawing two.
The win, you ask? A 1-2 victory over Bordeaux in October 2000, which came thanks to an 83rd-minute opportunistic Ole strike.
Post-match, Sir Alex Ferguson said: “Solskjaer’s finish was absolutely world class. I think if he gets the opportunity he’s capable.
“He’s one of the best finishers in the game, no question about that.”
David de Gea made a superb second half save after taking a knock in the first half at St. James’ Park, so should be okay for this one unless Dean Henderson really is the ‘cup goalkeeper.’
In Harry Maguire’s absence due to a knock he sustained on international duty, United may have to change shape due to a lack of natural centre-backs.
Marcos Rojo is not in the Champions League squad and Eric Bailly hasn’t travelled, meaning Victor Lindelöf and recently-returned Axel Tuanzebe are the only recognised centre-backs on show.
Luke Shaw can work well in a three-man defence, while many have clamoured for Aaron Wan-Bissaka (fresh from his first goal for the club) to play there.
Scott McTominay could also cover, shining there for Scotland as of late – albeit a vastly different proposition.
That may mean Brandon Williams and potential debutant Alex Telles could start at right and left wing-back respectively.
A five-man defence which naturally doesn’t allow space and doubles up on PSG’s pace-reliant wingers would make sense for Solskjær’s side defensively but in-turn invite Parisien pressure and hinder an attack.
Nemanja Matić and Paul Pogba are expected to be recalled in midfield, although Ole could opt for the most industrious Fred and/or McTominay, both of whom started that famous victory in a double pivot.
Donny van de Beek could play from the off but it’s unlikely unless Solskjær stacks the midfield with technically-talented men.
Fellow midfielder Bruno Fernandes joined his manager in Paris to speak with reporters and, there and then, was announced as captain for the match.
The Portuguese playmaker may well be man-marked by Herrera, who has famously done similar jobs on key players while at Old Trafford.
A natrual leader, Fernandes expected to be relied on for creativity like Pogba, who Tuchel described as ‘one of the best midfielders in the world’ in his own presser yesterday.
Ahead of them will likely be Rashford (who the German tactician is also a big reported fan of) and Frenchman Anthony Martial, who scored a 92nd-minute equaliser against the Parisiens back in his AS Monaco days.
Both Rashford and fellow ‘fledgling’ Mbappé seem mature beyond their years on and off the pitch and the latter has had some words to say on the Mancunian icon.
On Monday, Martial’s international teammate said of Marcus: “To tackle an issue as important as child poverty is one of the most important things that somebody can do.
“So I have full respect that he [Rashford]’s been doing that and trying to make a real change.”
Mbappé also knows Cavani well, who was rumoured to be further determined to join United once the sides were drawn to face other other.
The striker was hoping to be fit for the game but two training sessions with a new team after a seven-month lay-off were unsurprisingly deemed not enough.
His fellow Uruguayan Facundo Pellistri has travelled to France and could made his full debut.
The 18-year-old could make his bow from the 12-man bench, where five changes can be made.
Injuries/suspensions (estimated return)
- Eric Bailly – hamstring (back in training)
- Édinson Cavani – match fitness (unknown)
- Jesse Lingard – knock (unknown)
- Harry Maguire – hip (day to day)
- Mason Greenwood – knock (unknown)
- Phil Jones – knee (two weeks)
(3-4-1-2) de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelöf, Shaw; Williams, Matić, Pogba, Telles; Fernandes; Rashford; Martial
Quote from the boss
“Of course everyone wants to be in the Champions League and play the top teams. We’ve drawn last season’s finalists, semi-finalists and this is the first chance we’ll have to play the best, which will be the biggest challenge for this team.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjær
Next match: Chelsea [H] Saturday, 24th October
- Kylian Mbappé vs Victor Lindelöf
- Neymar vs Aaron Wan-Bissaka
- Bruno Fernandes vs Marquinhos
Enjoy the match and let us know your thoughts ahead of the game!