Comeback win gives Solskjaer confidence ahead of PSG clash
|(Andreas Pereira 53, Romelu Lukaku 59, 89)||(Yan Valery 26, James Ward-Prowse 74)|
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said his “confident” side could stage a Champions League fightback at Paris Saint-Germain this week after a dramatic 3-2 victory over Southampton on Saturday.
Romelu Lukaku’s 89th-minute strike at Old Trafford, his fourth goal in two games, fired United back into the top four at the expense of Arsenal, who were held 1-1 by Tottenham Hotspur.
Solskjaer’s side will be aiming to overturn a 2-0 deficit in the Champions League last 16, second leg at PSG on Thursday morning (Singapore time).
“The dressing room was bouncing, they were happy, looking forward to Wednesday,” said the Norwegian.
“We’re playing against one of the best teams in Europe with some absolute quality players but who knows? This has happened before, so many great comebacks.
“The Champions League has given quite a few of those comebacks, PSG against Barcelona for example. We have to do it away from home, but we have eight straight wins away from home.
“We’re confident away from home and if we’re in the game with 20 or 30 minutes to go, who knows?”
Solskjaer’s mentor Sir Alex Ferguson became renowned for his team’s last-minute winners during a golden era that featured the current United interim manager, who scored a stoppage-time winner in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
And the Norwegian appeared to have summoned the spirits of the Ferguson era, after United claimed a crucial three points against lowly Southampton.
“It was like the old days,” beamed Solskjaer, whose side now lead Arsenal by one point in the race for Champions League qualification, with Chelsea four points further back with two games in hand.
“I’ve been part of that so many times myself. We spoke about it at half-time and said get the ball in the box and play more forward because the Stretford End will suck it in for you.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Andreas (Pereira) and Romelu, because they were great finishes, but that spirit is just part of this club’s history. We have done it so many times before.”
United appeared to be heading towards a disappointing home draw in the closing moments, when substitute Fred exchanged passes with Luke Shaw and found the in-form Lukaku on the edge of the area.
The Belgian striker did the rest with a pinpoint finish into the bottom corner.
Solskjaer could even enjoy the luxury of a missed injury-time penalty when Paul Pogba’s effort was well-saved by Angus Gunn following Stuart Armstrong’s trip on Marcus Rashford.
But the finale, which extended Solskjaer’s unbeaten run in domestic action with United to 15 games, was much-needed after it appeared his team would drop points in the chase for a top-four finish.
In a game of spectacular goals, Southampton wingback Yan Valery silenced Old Trafford by giving the Saints the lead with his ferocious strike in the 26th minute.
After a lacklustre first half, a rejuvenated United turned the tables after the break.
Alexis Sanchez's injury forced Solskjaer to bring on Diogo Dalot in the 52 minute, which proved to be the fillip for his side.
Barely a minute later, Dalot combined with Lukaku, forcing the ball through to Pereira, who took a touch before curling a magnificent equaliser into the Southampton goal.
Six minutes later, an irrepressible United took the lead. Pereira showed his strength to hold off challengers in midfield before slipping through an excellently timed pass for Lukaku who finished clinically from 15 metres.
Saints midfielder James Ward-Prowse struck a superb 25-metre free-kick after 74 minutes to make it 2-2, before Lukaku found United's winner in the 89th minute. – AFP