“The game of PSG flew through Neymar and the rest did not have the mojo to overcome the composure of Manchester United. It was a PSG who were poor in the midfield and did not like to defend. Neymar gave his all, but Bissaka and Tuanzebe were much-more solid”

Almost 19 months have passed since the remarkable 3-1 comeback victory that put Manchester United into the last eight of the UEFA Champions League and sealed Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s ascent to the permanent job. Kylian Mabappe was stunned and Neymar watching from the stands was left clueless. Paris Saint-Germain should not have bottled it, but the late drama scripted by a controversial Marcus Rashford penalty sealed the fate of the match.

Time moved on.

The COVID-19 Pandemic showed and does not seem to know how to slow down.

Football was absent and returned. Bayern Munich unleashed their true powers. PSG gave the impression, things have started change for them and the best would come in the next season. But all was not well in Old Trafford – the ride had been topsy-turvy and Jose Mourinho made a mess in Old Trafford a few weeks ago.

The once-mighty Red Devils have a backline, which always melts under pressure and at times in rather comical fashion gifts goals to the opposition. So, before the clash against Neymar, Angel Di Maria, and Mbappe – it was dubbed, the Manchester United defence would melt down again – but wait, one must not forget, Manchester United love to play in Paris.

The Red Devils, unbeaten in five previous visits to France, were returning to the scene of their history-making round of 16 last year, where they became the first side in the Champions League era to recover from a two-goal home first-leg deficit to advance – it was the famous heist in Paris.

Even though the presence of Neymar, Di Maria, and Mbappe would inspire the French side, but to be honest, football is not always about just one or two players; but it is a team game and in Paris, PSG PSG were badly affected by injuries with Marco Verratti, Mauro Icardi, Juan Bernat and Thilo Kehrer all missing and Marquinhos and Julian Draxler confined to bench roles.

As a matter of fact, PSG surfaced a half-strength side.

Thomas Tuchel stuck to the 4-3-3 formation whereas Ole switched to the 3-5-2 formation.

The 3-man defence had Axel Tuanzebe on the left and Aaron Wan-Bissaka playing as a left full-back in the midfield.

Tuanzebe and Bissaka – the vital cogs

Despite having a lesser amount of possession than PSG (61%) Manchester United (39%) – Bissaka and Tuanzebe played a vital role in Paris to shut down Neymar and Mbappe.

The pressing of Manchester united could be noticed from the start- Rashford and Anthony Martial pressed the two center-backs of PSG – Diallo and Kimpembe from the start while Bruno Fernandes pressed the central midfielder – Danilo Pereira.

Such players did not have the skill level like Verratti, Bernat, or Paredes to overcome the pressing of United and progress centrally – numbers suggest; PSG could proceed 31% of times through the middle.

Navas played the ball on the flanks – especially on the left flank where it was the job of Layvin Kurzawa to proceed. Kurzawa’s progress would lead either Danilo or Idrisa Gueye to drop down on the left side of the defence. Kurzawa’s task was to pass the ball to Mbappe who was under the marking of Bissaka.

With Kurzawa exploiting the space on the left, Mbappe shifted to the center along with Bissaka and creating the space for Neymar to drop deeper so that he could dictate play from the center of the park.

Neymar caused problems.

By his standards, he might have an off-day, but still, he was a continuous threat to the United defence.

With PSG targeting the left flank to orchestrate their attack more often – 48% of the match to be specific – Neymar progressed through that channel and took on Bissaka, Tuanzebe, and Scott McTominay. He was the only player to complete 4 dribbles successfully and ran through the channels to create chances.

Neymar set the tempo and the rest followed along with Di Maria.

This switched the United backline to back four in a 4-3-1-2 position.

PSG operated with a 4-2-3-1 and Neymar playing as the central attacking midfielder – joined by Di Maria from the right to the center, solidity was the key for United.

Bissaka and Tuanzebe dished out one of the best matches in their careers where they consistently switched positions to block Neymar and Mbappe.

Both the defenders knew Neymar is someone who is extremely daring and loves taking risks. His risky fashion required to cover on the left flank because Kurzawa had to move up o link-up with Neymar and this required the defensive midfielders to switch to the left-back position as a cover, which never came.

Bissaka and Tuanzebe defended with intelligence and courage, they countered with pace and verve, and when the game began to tilt away from them Solskjær’s grip – Paul Pogba was introduced and started operating with a back four consistently.

Bissaka and Tuanzebe neutralized any threats even before it bloomed from the feet of Neymar and in turn, the lack of shield of Neymar’s risk-taking play left spaces behind for United to counter.

They exploited it and the night belonged to a more patient and tactically sound Ole.

The game of PSG flew through Neymar and the rest did not have the mojo to overcome the composure of Manchester United. It was a PSG who were poor in the midfield and did not like to defend. Neymar gave his all, but Bissaka and Tuanzebe were much-more solid.

A lot of things need to change in Old Trafford.