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You have to respect PSG's quality

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Mark Froggatt

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That was my overriding feeling on Tuesday evening after watching Paris Saint-Germain secure a 2-0 win at Old Trafford to gain a valuable advantage in our Champions League last-16 tie.

There is no need for critical introspection and analysis.

The post-mortem is not required. 

Ole is still at the wheel and, as he stressed, we must learn from the experience.

The Ligue 1 champions produced an undeniably impressive performance beneath the floodlights that oozed confidence and charisma, displaying a quality that justified the hype surrounding them.

They were the better team on the night, and left Manchester with our admiration.

PSG have been an attractive side for several seasons now and their dominance in France has been well documented. But, on the evidence of Tuesday night, it looks like they’ve stepped it up a notch this campaign and could go all the way.

Everybody knows about their forward line, which is arguably the best in Europe with that galaxy of stars, yet their defensive prowess was perhaps what caught my eye the most against us. 

Thomas Tuchel was appointed to replace Unai Emery as head coach last summer and, at the time, the bilingual German was most associated with his free-scoring, attack-minded Borussia Dortmund side that won so many plaudits.

However, as was evident at Old Trafford, PSG have become a much sterner force under his coaching and they now defend with a shrewdness that is always required on Europe’s most prestigious stage, which Solskjaer acknowledged afterwards.

All of a sudden, PSG look experienced and battle-hardened.

A few eyebrows were raised when veteran Gianluigi Buffon was signed as a free agent from Juventus last summer, simply due to his age, but the legendary Italian goalkeeper continues to defy genetics and, on Tuesday, he became the fourth player to appear in the Champions League at the age of 41. 

Amazingly, Buffon's first appearance in the Champions League was two months and 18 days before Marcus Rashford was born.

His experience and wisdom is clearly infiltrating a backline which was marshalled so well by Brazil international Thiago Silva, who shone with Presnel Kimpembe and Thilo Kehrer either side of him. 

Marquinhos and Marcos Verratti were also both excellent in midfield, Angel Di Maria was a constant threat on his return to Old Trafford and, as expected, Kylian Mbappe was sensational up front. 

The latter’s pace when bursting forward to score was unerring and can only be respectfully applauded (watch the replay and observe that sprint!).

Interestingly, Solskjaer stressed in his post-match comments that our own forwards can learn from Mbappe’s predatory movements.

Yet for all of the praise that should go to PSG, this last-16 tie is definitely not over. 

How many times have we climbed off the canvas and defied the odds?

We don’t take the easy route at United, especially in Europe, and our opponents will know that. This season’s comeback win at Juventus, still fresh in the mind, is evidence that this team can defeat the best sides in Europe.  

“Difficult is not impossible,” declared Solskjaer in our interview.

“We know we have to score two goals and not concede. But we have done that before in this club, we have turned things around. PSG are a very good team with quality from the goalkeeper to the striker, but we have got to go there and believe.”

With his final words, Ole delivered the most important instruction. 

“We have to learn from tonight.”

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Mark Froggatt

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