Tuanzebe was rightly cautioned for a cynical tug on Demba Ba in Istanbul but his bookings following aerial duels with Kylian Mbappe and Ba in the return leg were endemic of the fussy continental refereeing that still penalises physical players.
A half-time arrival last week, Tuanzebe probably felt it best to leave one on Ba after the chasing the former Chelsea striker had given him three weeks earlier and could have been more subtle. Ba’s histrionics were just as effective as the contact and the physio was not waved on.
Gallingly for Tuanzebe, he is suspended for the rematch with Paris Saint-Germain six weeks on from his career zenith against Mbappe and Neymar in the Parc des Princes. Solskjaer was so insistent on a back three that night he picked Tuanzebe for his first appearance in 10 months in the absence of the injured Harry Maguire.
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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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Neymar operates as though he is an endangered species and Mbappe, cowed by Tuanzebe’s robustness, has embarrassed himself with some appalling dives. Angel di Maria is alien to courage and a tumble against Arsenal in an FA Cup quarter-final led to his dismissal.
The double dilemma for United ahead of the deuxième partie with PSG is Tuanzebe is suspended and Luke Shaw sidelined, unless Solskjaer has hit the smokescreen button again with an injury bulletin. The central defensive alternatives are Eric Bailly, last seen broken by Tottenham and subsequently literally broken by another international injury and Teden Mengi, whose only professional appearance amounts to nine minutes against LASK in August.
Scott McTominay – if fit – could come into consideration now he is part of Scotland’s defensive trident and had a chastening experience in a back three with United at West Ham two seasons ago. If McTominay is available he is needed in midfield alongside his Parisian partner Fred.
Marcos Rojo was excluded from the United Champions League squad and should not be anywhere near a stadium anyway. Phil Jones is feeling about as festive as Scrooge, out injured until after Christmas and omitted from the Premier League squad as well as the European list.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka would be a worthy complement in a back three, given his near-faultless defending and faulty attacking, though the right wing-back alternatives are Brandon Williams and Timothy Fosu-Mensah, whose last starts were in September.
Solskjaer has claimed the scalps of Chelsea (twice), City and PSG by reverting to a back three and United mollified Liverpool in October of last year. Dean Henderson, a possible starter on Wednesday, flourished behind three centre halves at Sheffield United, Alex Telles’ peak in his short United career came at wing-back in Paris and the forwards have not been shackled by the system. PSG need to win, which could invite United to counter-attack in a tie where a point will send them through to the last 16.
Yet United’s strength lies in attack and they have just secured their fourth successive win in regulation time for the first time since January 2019, rather than reeling from a trouncing masterminded by their former manager. PSG have Mbappe, Neymar, Marquinhos and Marco Verratti but United have Fernandes, Cavani and Rashford, with Paul Pogba possibly stewing on the bench and itching to send his stock skywards again.
PSG are not as intimidating as they once were. Their goalkeeper at the weekend, Sergio Rico, will be familiar to English viewers from facing firing squads during Fulham’s last sorry season in the Premier League and Thomas Tuchel discarded Cavani yet accepted Moise Kean on loan from Everton.
Their defence is devoid of Thiago Silva and Presnel Kimpembe played with such a haunted look against United in October he may still be inconsolable over deflecting Diogo Dalot’s shot 21 months ago. Abdou Diallo has collected two red cards this season and the full-backs are not as relentless as Dani Alves and Juan Bernat were.
Solskjaer mastered the balance between defence and attack in October with the penetrative partnership of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford and Fernandes in the hole, backed up by the pressing and probing of Fred.
Cavani and Mason Greenwood failed to make the flight, Donny van de Beek had a more fleeting walk-on appearance than Alfred Hitchcock and Juan Mata was unused. A tactical mind won the game.