PSG vs Manchester United: Mystic Ole Gunnar Solskjaer instills belief as master plan befuddles Paris Saint-Germain

The Norwegian continues to show his golden touch after a miraculous Champions League comeback

Miguel Delaney
Thursday 07 March 2019 14:13
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Manchester United fans sing after dramatic win at PSG in Champions League last 16

Having already somehow taken this Manchester United team so far, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer almost went there in his joyous post-game press conference.

“Football…” he began, after being asked about how many spectacular comebacks he’s been involved in, and after the slightest pause: “That’s what it gives you.”

He didn’t add the “bloody hell” made famous by his mentor but, given the pause, it was impossible not to think he was considering it.

Maybe that would have been too perfect, but it’s hard to think how it could have been given the night at the Parc des Princes, and given this whole spell.

Solskjaer has already made such a virtue of always saying what seems to absolutely be the right thing, and then following it by doing the right thing, but this week really took it to the next level. And that isn’t even how he somehow pulled off a comeback as remarkable as that with a Manchester United team as utterly stretched to the limit as that.

It was how, if you actually listen back to his pre-match press conference, he pretty much predicted how this game against Paris Saint-Germain would go. It panned out exactly as he planned.

That is something that Jose Mourinho genuinely used to be exceptional at when he was at his peak as one of the great managers, and it has a real significance beyond just displaying what seems a clairvoyance that will further convince his players, and set the correct tone.

It sets out a vision for the game. It helps players visualise what will happen, which in turns gives them focus, and helps keep them calm and concentrated to actually make it a self-fulfilling prediction.

That calmness was all the more important given how PSG began to psychologically crumble as the game went on, becoming guilty of so many moments and missteps that showed how rattled they were.

Solskjaer, again, got all of that spot on.

United celebrate their incredible comeback

And even if there was an obvious fortuitousness to both of their first two goals, United did their job of capitalising on it, and then rode it in the right way. Solskaer even got the timing of his plan right, saving the side’s energy in the second half and calculatedly trying to conserve energy for one grand last surge when the game would have been at its most intense. Again, he just called it.

“We set out the plan,” Solskjaer revealed. “It wasn't about having the ball and outplaying them because if you give them too much space and time, with [Kylian] Mbappe, you saw a few times in the first half when we missed our defensive shape they threw us straight away, the plan was to get the first goal, be in the game with five or 10 mins to go and we were.”

The concession of the Juan Bernat goal was the one wrinkle, the imperfection in the plan, but it similarly summed things up that goal just ended up working further to United’s favour and with Solskjaer making a decision that worked out even better than it might have.

The Norwegian first of all showed impressive decisiveness by rectifying his pre-game error and removing Eric Bailly from right-back, with the introduction of Diogo Dalot’s pace further disorienting PSG at a crucial stage of the game when they had just conceded a second goal.

Solskjaer embraces Mbappe

It undeniably set the pace for what followed, and how panicked PSG became. That in itself played in to Presnel Kimpembe’s bad decision to turn his back on Dalot’s shot, even if debate about the penalty decision will go on.

One thing there can be absolutely no debate on is that everything Solskjaer touches at the moment turns to gold. Even a United team as stretched as this this. Even a first-leg that looked as bad for them as this.

Of the penalty, Solskjaer merely said “I hope it’s the right decision.”

There’s no need to hope with his own decisions. Everything is coming off. That is what he’s giving Manchester United right now.

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