Manchester United sealed their place in the last eight of the Champions League following a dramatic away goals victory over PSG on Wednesday night.
United became the first team to overcome a two-goal home defeat in the competition’s knock-out stages to see off the French champions in Paris.
Romelu Lukaku scored twice before Marcus Rashford’s dramatic late penalty following a controversial Kimpembe handball, saw United advance to the last eight of the competition.
As the dust settles on a historic night in Paris, here are five things we learned from United’s late win.
1) When The Going Gets Tough PSG Start To Struggle
The measure of a PSG side that blitz all in front of them in France will always be their performance in Europe, and once again they came up short on the big stage.
A two-goal lead, and up against a depleted United, all Tuchel’s men had to do at the Parc Des Princes was hold their nerve. When Thilo Kehrer played the ball straight to Romelu Lukaku to round the keeper in the 2nd minute, it was clear there would be an issue.
Yes, they took control of the game shortly after and equalised, but an individual error again allowed United back into the game. From there they sauntered slowly around the pitch in Paris, knowing a goal would kill off the tie, but lacking in the conviction and endeavour to get it.
Since their injection of investment in 2011, the furthest PSG have gone in Europe is the last eight, and twice in the last three seasons, they’ve been on the receiving end of two remarkable comebacks.
Money can buy you talent, but in PSG’s case, it doesn’t seem to buy you bottle.
2) You Actually Can Win With Kids, Just Ask Olé
Going into the second leg in Paris, Solskjaer and United were missing 10 first team players, including the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial; all highly influential players in the Red Devils’ side.
With the odds stacked against him, the caretaker boss put his faith in youth, starting Scott McTominay and Andreas Pereira, bringing 20-year old Diego Dalot off the bench, and finishing the game with Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood on the field.
The average age of the United team that finished the game was 23, and although it’s easy to forget, it was a 21-year old in Marcus Rashford who stepped up to coolly dispatch the crucial penalty.
There had been whispers in certain parts of the footballing world that United may have another “class of 92” in their ranks with the likes of Joe Garner, Mason Greenwood and Tahith Chong all beginning to break into the first team at a very early age.
Whether they live up to the lofty moniker remains to be seen but last night was a very promising start.
3) VAR Will Never Stop Dividing Opinion, But It Is A Necessary Introduction
Over the last two nights of Champions League action, the video assistant referee has been at the heart of discussions. Real Madrid on Tuesday against Ajax and PSG last night against Manchester United.
By the letter of the law, Dalot’s wild strike did hit Kimpembe in the arm as he turned, thus leading to a handball and a penalty, but ask most and they’ll tell you the decision was harsh.
In real time it certainly looked innocuous, but slowed down the contact was blatant. The decision, in a word, was correct.
There’s a fine line between success and failure in major European football but VAR provides a necessary aid to referees in a situation where it is absolutely required.
Yes, it takes time and will always be used at the referee’s discretion but whether you love it or hate it it is getting decisions correct.
4) In A Conversation Dominated By Kylian Mbappe, This Was Marcus Rashford’s Time To Shine
In the first leg against PSG, Marcus Rashford struggled to make any real impact on the game, while his French counterpart dazzled in victory, rightfully grabbing the headlines.
This time around it was the Manchester United man who flourished, keeping a cool head under pressure and showing nerve far beyond his years to slot home the winning penalty and send Solskjaer’s side into the last eight.
Last night in Paris was Rashford’s 100th start for the club and it’s incredibly easy to forget just how young he is. To be such a prominent figure at one of European football’s biggest teams at 21 is an incredible achievement.
There’s no doubt that Mbappé is still European football’s premier wonderkid but to dismiss Marcus Rashford from the conversation would be incredibly foolish.
5) Under Olé Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United Can Win The Champions League
If last night in Paris proved anything it’s that this Manchester United side, like the Ferguson teams of old, never know when they’re beaten. A dangerous trait for whoever draws Solskjaer’s men.
Their run so far also heavily resembles Chelsea’s Champions League winning season of 2011/2012, when interim manager Roberto Di Matteo, took over a team in turmoil and brought them to the pinnacle of European football.
Chelsea had to overcome a first leg last 16 defeat to a strong Napoli side, in a similar vein to how United had to overturn a two-goal deficit against PSG. The early signs are eerily similar.
There’s also the added bonus of the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and PSG all already out and the luck of the draw could see them draw a Porto or even an Ajax, both of which they’ll feel they can better over two legs.
Top four in the league will certainly still be a goal for Solskjaer and United but it’s possible that should they concentrate massively on the Champions League and receive a favourable draw, they could be dark horses to go all the way, a la Chelsea in 2012.