When Ole Solskjaer Gunnar said that he’d go to Paris and qualify for the Quarter finals of the Champions league, many laughed. His employers didn’t laugh but nodded just so they didn’t upset the “magician ” . Even the most optimistic of United fans really wished for a draw in Paris. For it’s PSG! What’s more, United conceded to unreplied home goals at Old Trafford. Plus, the regular midfield will be absent! No Paul Pobga.
But last night ,Wednesday, Ole pulled off one of the most dramatic come backs in the continental tournament’s history. And what a come back!
” United are back,” they sang at the end. And they are. Whatever happens now, this was Manchester United as they want to be known; as they were known. And they partied like it was 1999.
History was made again and that joyous band of 2,000 United fans sang endlessly ,immune to the rain. The victors (players) ran to them in near absolute disbelief at the feat they had just achieved. They sang again and again even after a shocked Paris St-German side struggled off the pitch ,stunned, Kylian Mbappe in tears.
If there were any doubts that the Caretaker manager will land the job on a permanent basis, last night’s performance should put an end to it. What more can you ask from a coach? Even a Fergie ?
On Teusday he said that “there is no such thing as a lost cause”. Again ,nobody believed him. But he did. No team in English Champions League history had overturned a 2-0 deficit from the first leg. United did and without 10 players, without their first-choice midfield and with 19-year-old Tahith Chong and 17-year-old Mason Greenwood on the pitch.
Solskjaer spoke about the importance of scoring first – they did, after 111 seconds – and about United’s illustrious relationship with late drama that is so associated with him, of course. And how, with Sir Alex Ferguson in attendance, they also recalled 1999 and that most incredible of Champions League finals. Football, what the hell, as the man said, and he joined in the celebrations in the dressing room here.
The drama and dream were made possible by a technology an ever insular English hate. VAR!
Substitute Diogo Dalot drove a shot that struck Presnel Kimpembe on the elbow. The defender had turned his back but, after consulting with the VAR and checking the monitor, Slovenian referee Damir Skomina pointed to the spot. Then the gods smiled on Ole .
Romelu Lukaku will get a hat-trick but you don’t gamble with something so beautiful. So enter , Marcus Rashford who will take the kick. Very calm, very cool the 21-year- was ( fans on their feet) , waited before a shot that saw Gianluigi Buffon look on helplessly as the game was won. Against him.
The Guardian of London wrote this about Ole.
“Those gods are smiling on Solskjaer. But he is making his own luck, and that is what the United hierarchy should reflect upon. The caretaker manager got his team selection wrong by playing Eric Bailly at right-back but was ruthlessly professional enough to take him off during the first half.”
One chance. That was what it was all about – and staying in the game long enough to take it. United’s defence was brilliantly marshalled by Chris Smalling, who stood up to the awesome threat of Mbappe. They were in danger of being overrun.
So Solskjaer abandoned his 4-4-2 formation and switched to 5-4-1. He pushed Rashford back into midfield and moved Andreas Pereira. He tightened it up and limited PSG. And how it worked.