Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s unbeaten run as interim boss of Manchester United was finally brought to an end by an injury-hit Paris Saint-Germain side at Old Trafford in the first leg of their last 16-Champions League clash.
It is a testament to the Norwegian that so many United fans were left shocked by the result given that, when the draw was made in December, even the most ardent supporters were left worried by how many goals Thomas Tuchel’s side could possibly win by.
As it happens, Tuchel’s men were able to record a stunning two-nil win and head back to Paris feeling the job is all but done thanks to the security of the away goals.
The bubble had to burst at some time for Solskjaer, and as the fans trickled out of the stadium with a few minutes left to play to the sounds of the PSG away fans shouting ‘Ole ole ole’ with every pass that found the feet of one of their players, there was a reluctant acceptance that this had to happen at some stage.
Naturally, there was a bitter disappointment that it had to happen on the Champions League stage where the consequences of losing at home are painfully severe.
Ever the optimist, Solskjaer said after the game that “mountains are there to be climbed“, and he should know, having scaled a few in his time.
34 – None of the previous 34 teams to lose the first leg of a Champions League knockout match at home by two or more goals have progressed to the next round. Mountain. #MUNPSG pic.twitter.com/s4EmUJz8Oo
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 12, 2019
The worry for the 45-year-old is that this was billed as his first real test since coming in to take over from Jose Mourinho and, having failed, it may weaken his claim to the Manchester United throne on a full-time basis.
It’s too early still to make a decision either way, but there would have been a sense of optimism in the Manchester United boardroom at their chances of a place in the quarter-finals given how many of PSG’s big-name players were out through injury.
The jury is still out as to whether you can ever call a PSG side depleted, even if they are struggling with injury given their resources and the eye-watering strength in depth they have.
Put Kylian Mbappe into any side in the bottom half of the Premier League and he will score in 99% of his visits to Old Trafford, but when you have Angel Di Maria, Julian Draxler, and Dani Alves giving him service, you are in for a night of terror.
There was a lot of expectation on Mbappe in the build-up, with many fearing the pressure of leading the line would prove too much.
Nevertheless, the 20-year-old was backed to score by betconnect, a social betting platform, in the first leg at odds of 23/17, and he duly delivered, proving the advice of the experts to be well-founded and worth following for punters looking for the best bet of the day.
The first leg showed PSG to be more of an attacking threat, but Solskjaer will instruct his troops to throw the kitchen sink at Tuchel’s team once the gun goes at the Parc des Princes.
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) February 12, 2019
There’s reason to believe that the Norwegian has what it takes to mastermind a win in Paris.
The appeal of Solskjaer’s tenure at Old Trafford so far has been the way he has his side playing like the Manchester United of old.
You only have to think back to Burnley’s visit to Old Trafford in late January.
With the Clarets up two-nil in the 86th minute, all hope looked to be gone, but a fight that wouldn’t have looked out of place in United’s treble-winning year saw them claim an unlikely point thanks to Victor Lindelof’s 92nd-minute equaliser.
United will be led into the second half of their round of 16-clash with PSG by a man who has never conceded defeat in his life; a word of warning would be not to touch the money just yet.