Manchester United’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League are in the balance after last night’s 3-1 defeat by Paris Saint-Germain at Old Trafford.
Neymar powered the visitors into the lead but Marcus Rashford’s deflected effort levelled the tie before Anthony Martial missed two presentable chances to take the lead.
Marquinhos poked home from close range for 2-1 before Fred received a second yellow card to leave United with 10 men for the final 20 minutes.
United were then stung on the break as they pushed for an equaliser with Neymar finishing off a fine counter-attack in injury-time to secure the win for PSG.
The Norwegian manager came in for harsh criticism from the media, who questioned his decision to leave Fred on the pitch after he picked up a debatable yellow card for pushing his head into Leandro Paredes.
Here’s a round-up of what they made of the game.
“Major question marks will hang over Solskjaer after this result,” Simon Stone wrote.
“While the United boss can legitimately argue the caution that got Fred sent off was debatable – he screamed for a VAR check but they do not intervene on yellow card decisions – he can barely claim the Brazilian did not deserve to be sent off at some point in the game.
“The biggest flashpoint came when he clashed with Leandro Paredes shortly before Rashford’s equaliser.
“As the pair faced off, Fred appeared to push his head towards Paredes, who went down clutching his face. Italian referee Daniele Orsati went to the screen to check what had happened but, to Tuchel’s disbelief, only issued a yellow card.
“When the same pair came together again shortly afterwards, Orsati ruled Paredes was the aggressor and cautioned him, even though Fred ended up standing on his opponent.
“Given an angry Neymar went to the referee for a long chat at half-time, after he was pulled away from Scott McTominay, it felt an obvious decision to replace Fred, particularly as Solskjaer had five substitutes at his disposal.
“Instead, Fred returned for the second period, leaving his manager to face the consequences, with PSG’s official Twitter feed announcing ‘finally’ as the Brazilian made his way prematurely to the dressing rooms.”
“Oh, Ole. As the second half kicked off at Old Trafford there were three possible outcomes confronting Ole Gunnar Solskjær as he surveyed his midfield,” Barney Ronay wrote.
“First, Fred would be sent off almost immediately for a second yellow card. Second, Fred would be sent off almost immediately for a straight red card. And third, Fred would be sent off a bit later for any combination of the above.
“There was something oddly admirable in Solskjær’s ability to defy this, to stare down the fates. But it didn’t actually help his team very much, in a game where Solskjær’s abrasive midfield and fast-breaking attack had briefly threatened to overwhelm Paris Saint‑Germain.
“That United ended up losing 3-1 was only partly down to Solskjær’s failure to act. It was also a function of the brilliance of Neymar, the best player on the pitch either side of some grade A theatrics. But still, this was a failure to read the room, the player, the energy of the game.
“The first moment of Fred red redemption came with 21 minutes gone, as United’s midfield fulcrum somehow avoided being sent off for leaning his forehead into Leandro Paredes in familiar angry‑stag motion. Paredes performed a classic dynamited‑chimneystack collapse in return, a move that is generally rewarded with a red card.
“The referee Daniele Orsato resisted the urge. Incorrectly perhaps, although this kind of red often seems overly cinematic. In any case Fed seemed to have short‑term immunity. A few minutes later he stood on Paredes’s toe as Paredes went through him but went unpunished.
“Try, try again. With 70 minutes gone Fred finally achieved a successful expulsion, hurling himself into another challenge and exhausting even the patience of Orsato. Solskjær, alone among the entire sentient population of planet earth in being unable to see this coming, had the gall to protest against the decision.
“Two minutes earlier Marquinhos had put PSG 2-1 up, poking in from close range. And with that the game was broken open, and the stage clear for the other thing that had been happening – the irresistible bloom of Neymar – to take control of the end result.”
“In truth, PSG might have been out of sight earlier had Fred not somehow escaped a red card for pressing his head into Leandro Paredes in the first half,” Nick Wright wrote.
“Referee Daniele Orsato went over to check the pitchside monitor following a VAR check, but deemed the offence only worthy of a yellow.
“The decision came as a big surprise and Fred found himself walking a disciplinary tightrope from then on. Soon after Rashford’s equaliser, the Brazilian was involved in another coming together with Paredes. Replays showed his studs came down on his opposite number’s boot, but it was Paredes who ended up yellow carded.
“The expectation was that Fred would be withdrawn at half-time given how his night was progressing. Manchester United had Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek in reserve, so Solskjaer was hardly short of options in central midfield.
But instead he sent Fred back out for the second half. And if that wasn’t surprising enough, he was still on the pitch when the game was becoming stretched and the clock was ticking towards the 70th minute.
“The challenge which eventually earned him his second yellow card actually looked like a fair one given Fred won the ball before making contact with Marco Verratti. But it was still unwise to go flying into the tackle given the circumstances – and even more unwise, on the part the man in the dugout, that he had not been taken off earlier.”
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Manchester United secured a dramatic comeback victory at Southampton on Sunday, largely thanks to Edinson Cavani’s two goals off the bench.
Bruno Fernandes’ goal set Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side on course to battle back from 2-0 down at St Mary’s, giving United a third successive Premier League win.
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“A night of ifs and butts for Manchester United ended in a red for Fred, Anthony Martial wasting golden chances, questionable management and tactics from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and an avoidable defeat that suddenly leaves their hopes reaching the last-16 of the Champions League in severe doubt,” wrote Jason Burt.
“It was brainless from Fred who gave one of the most foolish performances in a United shirt before inevitably being sent off and it was inexplicable from Solskjaer that he did not substitute the midfielder long before his luck ran out – just seconds after Paris Saint-Germain reclaimed the lead.
“Fred cost United the game but so did the manager when a point would have been good enough. This was the opposite of game-management. Instead United face RB Leipzig away next week needing to avoid defeat but with the Germans needing to win to go through. PSG, and their under-pressure coach Thomas Tuchel, threw themselves a lifeline in Group H where their final fixture is at home to Istanbul Basaksehir who are out of contention. They should now progress. United, Leipzig and PSG are all on nine points.”