Football

PSG a cut above: Solskjaer

Ferdinand and Neville believe tie is virtually over even before second leg in Paris

For around 20 minutes, the Champions League glory days really did feel like they were back for Manchester United.

The capacity 74,000 crowd at Old Trafford was in full voice, United were attacking Paris Saint-Germain down the flanks with speed and aggression and their opponents looked shaky.

That feeling lasted until the French champions began to get a grip on the game and by the end, a 2-0 defeat in the last-16, first-leg clash yesterday morning (Singapore time) served to highlight the gulf that remains between this United team and the European elite, reported Reuters.

"That's the level we want to get to" said United's caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, after goals by Presnel Kimpembe and Kylian Mbappe handed him his first loss since being appointed last December.

"We've been talking about top four (in the Premier League), that's one thing but we want to be at the top, and Man United should be at the top.

"This is a top, top team we played against. Our players today, are disappointed, of course, but I also think they know we need to step up our level to get to the level we want to get to."

United lost forwards Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard to muscle injuries midway through the match and replacements Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata failed to provide the necessary spark.

PSG had to cope without the injured Neymar and Edinson Cavani, two-thirds of their attack, yet remained a real threat in the final third with Julian Draxler and Angel di Maria causing United problems.

Said Solskjaer: "It's a reality check, you can see the strength they have when they put those players... but that's the level we want to get to.

"We are looking to strengthen the squad and then again we have so many young players to take a step up for next season."

The Norwegian's predecessor Jose Mourinho regularly railed against the club's hierarchy for failing to provide defensive reinforcements and legendary United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel suggested the PSG loss proved him right.

He said on beIN Sports: "You can get carried away because you're a fan, you're allowed to be carried away with the 10 wins in 11 games, but in the broader perspective, we already know Mourinho was fighting to get a centre-half or even two in the summer.

"He was doing that because there is a problem in... central defence. There are a few guys out there who can do the job but that problem hasn't gone away.

"That was exploited today."

COASTED

Fellow former United player Rio Ferdinand, meanwhile, felt PSG "coasted" against his former side, saying on BT Sport: "PSG without two of their best attacking players coasted second half and really put the game to bed and I think the tie, too."

His former teammate Gary Neville agreed that the last-16 clash is virtually over before the second leg in Paris on March 6.

He said on beIN Sports: "They were outclassed, Paris Saint-Germain were the better team and the tie now looks beyond Manchester United."

However, Neville's former teammate Schmeichel hit back at the former Valencia coach's defeatism, echoing Solskjaer's claim that, "Mountains are there to be climbed aren't they? You can't lay down and say this is over."

Schmeichel said on beIN Sports: "I don't know why (Neville) said that.

"There's a three-week period now, anything can happen before the second leg.

"Make no mistake, Manchester United will have learned a lot from today. An awful lot.

"In three weeks you can improve a lot. You can train a lot. You can come up with a proper plan."

Football