When the Champions League draw for the last 16 was out, expecting Manchester United to progress past Paris Saint-Germain into the quarterfinals was considered unrealistic. Jose Mourinho’s men were thrashed by rivals Liverpool the previous day and it rounded up a miserable run of just one win in six league games. Whereas PSG were rampaging around in Ligue 1, ensuring that their unbeaten run was sustained.
However, things have taken a turn in the right direction fpr Man United ever since and the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been the foundation for all the positivity that has ensued. United are yet to taste defeat in the Norwegian’s reign and have shared points only on one occasion.
It’s safe to say that the Norwegian has steadied the ship at United. But he is yet to face his biggest test which comes in the form of a Champions League fixture against PSG. The result of this tie could be crucial for his chances of an extended stay at the club.
While their league form might hide it, PSG are undergoing some crisis themselves, especially in the midfield department. Adrien Rabiot’s tussle with the board over his contract has cost him a spot in the line-up and has also hurt THoms Tuchel's squad selection.
Right-back Dani Alves has been forced to play in midfield for a while now, due to the lack of spine in the middle of the pitch. This also produces a frailty at the right-back position, with the young and inexperienced Thilo Kehrer taking up the spot.
The absence of Neymar could prove to be a stumbling block in PSG’s quest to finally make it past the last 16 of the Champions League after two devastating exits in the last two seasons. The good news is that midfield maestro Marco Verratti is back but Edinson Cavani has sustained an injury.
On the other hand, the midfield has been key to Solskjaer’s success at United. Paul Pogba has regained his mojo and has proved why he can be that player who could turn a tie around. Anthony Martial has been one of the most consistent players for United this season, providing some much-needed firepower on the wing.
With a stable United midfield taking on a shaky PSG midfield and an in-form Martial going head to head against a young Kehrer, the Red Devils could be at a vantage point. United’s strengths have aligned well with PSG’s weaknesses and this tie really could go either way, unlike perceived earlier.
Eliminating the French giants could make a crucial case for Solskjaer's extended stay at the club and the Norwegian could pull one out of his hat and trigger celebrations across Manchester.