If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is going to add a Champions League trophy as manager to the one he won as a player with Manchester United, his side are going to have to turn the tide of history.
United go into the second leg of their round of 16 clash with Paris Saint-Germain having lost the first game 2-0 at Old Trafford.
Before United, 34 teams have lost their first leg at home by two or more goals and none have managed to progress.
PSG hold a two-goal advantage over Manchester United going into the second leg of their Champions League Round of 16 match tonight. United will have to make history to progress and will have to do so with eleven players missing from the squad.
Solskjaer admits that they have a mountain to climb, but the caretaker manager was quick to point to their European history and PSG’s soft underbelly.
It is just two years since the perennial Ligue 1 champions were on the wrong end of Champions League history when Barcelona recovered from a 4-0 loss in Paris to win the second leg of their last-16 tie 6-1.
“Everyone knows that we can do it, we have done it before – and look at the results in the Champions League in the last few years,” Solskjaer said.
“I don’t want to call it strange, but last year Juventus lost 3-0 at home against Real Madrid and suddenly they were 3-0 up after 90 minutes against Madrid away.
“The year before that, PSG against Barcelona. We all remember those results. So there are so many examples of teams who can change results like this.
“Also, as a club, we’ve done it so many times. The players have been fantastic away from home, beaten Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham, which has given us the belief we can do this as well.”
That belief, and United’s current club-record run of eight successive away wins, is why Solskjaer says this second leg was “never mission impossible”.
If the players need further inspiration, they only need to look to the 1999 treble hero or former manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who traveled with the squad but will not be making a speech in Paris.
“It’s a difficult task but we can do it,” Solskjaer said.
“We need the first goal and we need to stay in the game. If there’s half an hour left and there’s one goal in it, anything can happen. But we need a good plan, it needs to be put in place and we need to perform on the night.”
United have the players to hurt PSG, it is just that Solskjaer will be without 10 of them.
Paul Pogba traveled to Paris but his red card at the end of the first leg means he is suspended, while Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Jesse Lingard, and Nemanja Matic are all unavailable.
Anthony Martial, Phil Jones, Antonio Valencia, and Matteo Darmian are other absentees, while Alexis Sanchez became the latest to miss out after sustaining a knee injury in Saturday’s thrilling 3-2 comeback win against Southampton.
“It was a bad knee injury so if it’s four weeks or six, hopefully, he’ll recover quickly,” Solskjaer said of Sanchez.
“We’ve lost a few players. We’ll cope with that, we’ll have a good team. We didn’t lose any in the last game – Alexis was the one we struggled to get fit for now.”
That clutch of absentees has seen United turn to the academy. Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes, and James Garner have traveled with the squad again, with 18-year-old Brandon Williams joining up with the senior team for the first time.
Champions League Last-16 (Agg 2-0)
Parc des Princes, Tonight, 8pm
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