Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes that Manchester United were “always in trouble” against Paris Saint-Germain after allowing themselves to be dominated by the French side, with Tuesday night’s 2-0 defeat leaving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side facing an uphill battle to qualify for the Champions League quarter-finals.
United saw a steady first-half display hit a roadblock when both Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard were forced off with injury, resulting in Solskjaer sending on Juan Mata and Alexis Sanchez as a result.
The changes altered the way United’s midfield were able to retain the ball and allowed PSG to break the deadlock through Presnel Kimpembe, before Kylian Mbappe sealed the victory that leaves United needing to score twice at the Parc des Princes just to take the tie to extra-time.
But while many put United’s collapse down to the forced changes, Wenger was not so forgiving on their performance and focussed particularly on their midfield succumbing to PSG’s packed line-up of Marquinhos, Marco Verratti, Juan Bernat, Julian Draxler and Kylian Mbappe.
"The difference, technically, in speed of understanding of the game between the two teams, was huge and it became bigger as the game went on," Wenger said on BeIN Sport.
"Man United played at home and had one shot on goal in a Champions League game - that tells you the difference between the two teams.
"In the Champions League you can't be dominated in midfield and the whole evening, Manchester United were dominated in midfield.
"PSG played with five midfielders and they never lost the ball.
"Manchester United could never win the ball back and when they had the ball they lost it very quickly because PSG dominated the midfield to win the ball back.
"They lost the battle in midfield. When you play at home and you cannot keep the ball, you're always in trouble."
Solskjaer remained optimistic after the defeat, which came as the first since he replaced Jose Mourinho on an interim basis in December having won 10 of his 11 games in charge.
"You can't lay down and say it's over,” the Norwegian said. "Today was a kind of a reality check on the level of the top teams.
"That is the level we want to get to. Top four is one thing. United should be at the top. They are a top team. [Our players] know we need to step up our level. We are disappointed."
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies