PSG leave a pathetic Champions League legacy after latest humiliation in Manchester United defeat

Miguel Delaney
1 / 6
PSG leave a pathetic Champions League legacy after latest humiliation in Manchester United defeat

Same pathetically brittle Paris Saint-Germain, but with one big difference. When many of these players were so spectacularly eliminated by Barcelona two years ago, they were mostly just dejected, looking shamed. This time the reactions were mainly of anger, as so articulated by so much cursing. While Neymar was typing for people to “go f***” themselves, Marquinhos was talking about how they now “as we say in Brazil, have to eat s***”.

That was because they this time had the perceived injustice of that last-minute penalty to rail against, but that it even got that far - from the various advantageous positions they had themselves in over 180 minutes - is bad enough.

What is worse, perhaps, is the very fact that there was one obvious question to ask.

And that is what actually was worse? The 6-1 against Barcelona, or this against Manchester United?

Many of the players struggled to say for definite but, as far as the wider future and identity of the club goes, the answer is actually irrelevant.

What is relevant, and should be so galling, is that this is their Champions League legacy.

They are putting so much into the pursuit of that one big trophy, and what they’ve actually got in return is two of the most haunting humiliations that any club can have in the space of a mere two years, and that can really start to mark your identity.

PSG have got no closer to the quarter-finals, let alone closer to their single semi-final appearance from 1994-95, when they were essentially a different club.

That is their association with this prestigious competition: embarrassment. All that money, all that power, and yet all that pain.

Mbappe looks dejected (REUTERS)

That you can actually make the comparison, and ask the question, from two results so close in time to each other is frankly pathetic.

It led to the next obvious question, that was put to Thomas Tuchel. Is there a psychological issue within this team? Has what happened in Barcelona in 2016-17 chronically damaged them?

He somewhat reasonably deflected this, with another measured answer in a post-game press conference where he actually came off well.

“Thilo [Kehrer] was not in Barcelona, Gigi [Buffon] was not in Barcelona, I was not in Barcelona,” he stated. “We have to be calm, because this result was not logical. Not logical. We were not the worst team over 180 minutes.”

Solskjaer consoles Mbappe (AFP/Getty Images)

But they did commit all of the worst errors, and most of them came in this game. They so clearly began to lose their composure, and their shape. That was most displayed in moments like Marquinhos apparently diving to get Scot McTominay booked, and some properly panicked moments. That was the same as in Barcelona, but there was another difference with this one.

It was how in command they’d been for most of the first half against United. The supreme control and polish that they showed in the minutes between both Romelu Lukaku goals just evaporated. For it to disappear that drastically, and for them to go from such an exceptional extreme to such a disastrous extreme so quickly, is genuinely abnormal.

And this is where we return to the issue of the very identity of the club.

United celebrate their late goal to send them through in the tie (Getty Images)

There is a contradictory fragility to their immense power.

For all the advantages of their wealth, and all the grandiosity of what they want to be as a club, it may have put them in this bizarrely disadvantageous cycle.

There is first of all the much-repeated point that being so much better than the rest of the French league may be the worst thing for facing actually good sides.

But it may go even deeper. Because, when you go to a PSG fixture like this, it often doesn’t feel like a football match. As the celebrities pile in, and the starting line-up is announced with a bizarrely bombastic and heavily sound-tracked light show, it feels like something closer to a fashion show. It isn’t so much a pre-game build-up as “festivities”.

Marcus Rashford commiserates Kylian Mbappe at full-time (AFP/Getty Images)

Little wonder that, when they face what is genuinely a football match, and one that develops into a proper fight that tests their mettle, they don’t have the steel for it. They collapse.

That is a problem that goes way beyond a manager like Tuchel.

It is a problem that has now meant they have suffered a humiliation that went beyond Barcelona, if as much because it only adds to it. It only adds to their Champions League legacy. And, unlike pretty much all of their rivals for the trophy, there is no glory to it.

There is only embarrassment. It's a feeling that's become all too familiar for them, but yet still somehow delivered in so many spectacularly different ways.