There was a sense of excitement in the air as the Parc des Princes witnessed a steady increase in the spectators ahead of an all-important clash between Manchester United and Paris St Germain. The home supporters were confident of another excellent performance, following a 2-0 triumph away from home at Old Trafford, as well as sublime league performances recently.
Kylian Mbappe had been the man to watch out for, with his inch-perfect gameplay and dazzling pace. The teen superstar had steadily gained a near cult status in the hearts of the fans, who saw in him the ‘messiah’ who could help them achieve world dominance.
Mbappe had been on the scoresheet at Old Trafford as well, with the Manchester United defenders left in no position to negotiate his impact throughout the course of the game. Another added advantage was the suspension of midfielder Paul Pogba who had been sent off following a collision, leaving the visitors in a state of near panic.
The French giants had failed to reach the quarterfinals over the last two years. The evening had all the necessary ingredients for halting the jinx, as well as setting the stage for something special.
Manchester United were further missing out on the presence of key first-team players like Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic due to injury. The away supporters would have been forgiven if they had openly declared their lack of optimism over a possible comeback.
While the midfield comprised of youngsters like Scott McTominay, Andreas Pereira and Fred, the bench was stripped of experience with the likes of Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes slotted in. The hosts boasted of a full-strength squad barring Neymar with Edinson Cavani and Leandro Paredes on the bench ensuring the much-needed firepower.
However, this Manchester United side was not one to bow down meekly. The appointment of former legendary footballer Ole Gunnar Solskjær had galvanized the squad into emerging as a unit which could take on the best of challenges heads on and trump opponents at their own games.
The same side which surrendered meekly under the leadership of Jose Mourinho now had a spirit to it. While former Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon had a night to forget conceding two easy goals, defender Thilo Kehrer did his cause no justice with a shabby performance.
Much-maligned striker Romelu Lukaku was the man to watch out for, with two sublime goals in the first half. With the score set at 2-2 at the end of 90 minutes, it could all have been for nothing with the aggregate score not in favour of the visitors.
However, as they say, fortune smiles for those who strive. Manchester United were handed a controversial penalty following an alleged handball in the area by Presnel Kimpembe, which Marcus Rashford made no mistakes with sending the supporters into a state of jubilation.
“Mountains are there to be climbed,” said Ole Gunnar Solskjær when quizzed about a possible comeback for Manchester United before the course of the clash, and the English giants had certainly achieved a feat of that magnitude in Paris, emerging as the first team to qualify after conceding two or more goals in the first leg at home.
With legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson in the stands, Solskjær’s Manchester United have paid a silent tribute to the ‘good ole’ days with the performance in Paris, sending out a message of intent to all potential rivals.
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