There were a few predictable narratives ahead of Manchester United’s 2-1 over Paris Saint-Germain .
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his side had, yet again, largely been written off ahead of a trip to the French capital but their response had critics eating their words.
For a club which is so often accused of living in the past it was United who made PSG little more than an afterthought with a professional, well-rounded and comfortable win in the opening match of Group H.
It might only have been 19 months since United’s last remarkable win over PSG but their latest triumph was courtesy of a new side which finally has Solskjaer’s own stamp of approval on it. Only seven of Tuesday’s match day squad travelled to Paris for that 3-1 win back in March 2019, yet the result was the same.
One of United’s absentees that night was Ander Herrera and you could argue he was missing once again this time around, acting only as a shadow in the PSG midfield which was perpetually chasing United throughout.
Herrera rejected a new deal at United in 2019 for footballing reasons but one year on he might be wishing he had stayed at Old Trafford instead.
The United board almost paid the price when they didn’t initially replace Herrera amid a failed pursuit of Sean Longstaff, with Scott McTominay and Andreas Pereira earmarked by Solskjaer as his two replacements. The fact only one of them is still at the club perhaps indicates how well that experiment went.
Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek have both helped to strengthen in an area of the pitch which was recklessly neglected in previous transfer windows, but it is Fred and McTominay who deserve the real credit for their seismic change in the middle of the pitch.
Both players started on Tuesday night, as they had done 19 months previous, but this time their selections were on merit rather than by default. Paul Pogba and Van de Beek both began on the bench but it is credit to those who did start that neither was hugely missed despite concerns pre-match.
United know this season will be a slog with two games a week for the majority of the campaign but their fears of fixture congestion will now be eased with such a reliable midfield axis proving their worth in a huge European match.
Herrera will always be cherished for the commitment he gave to the club, but when the signs of frailty grew he was the one who left on his own terms. United have now moved on from the split and they are much better off for doing so.