The Champions League is back. Manchester United welcome Paris Saint-Germain to Old Trafford in what is turning out to be the most eagerly anticipated clash in the round of 16. These are the nights fans all around the world crave for. It will easily be the biggest game United have enjoyed at the Theatre of Dreams since the game against Real Madrid in 2013.
Just as early as December, United were the team everyone wanted to draw with in the Champions League. When it was announced that PSG were the opposition, everyone, including the club’s own fans, laughed off the Red Devils chances. Two months later, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s return to United in place of the sacked Mourinho has completely changed the mood around the club.
The Reds are now on a 10-game unbeaten streak. The players are happy. The football on display is entertaining. There is a genuine belief now that United can win this tie and progress into the next round. If they do, it will be very hard for the Old Trafford hierarchy to not give Solskjaer the job full time. All the hype aside though, he knows there is still a job to be done and the opposition cannot be taken for granted. This is a weakened PSG side, with Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Thomas Meunier all out through injury.
Solskjaer knows his best XI and will have all of them available for this mammoth encounter. So who exactly is he going to pick? Here’s our predicted line-up:
Goalkeeper: David de Gea
The best goalkeeper in the world, on the biggest stage in club football. He will have to bring his A game once more because PSG are not going to go quietly.
Defenders: Ashley Young, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw
Easily United’s best defensive unit at the moment. Lindelof missed the game against Fulham on Saturday with a slight knock but should return for his side’s biggest game of the season. Ashley Young comes in for Diogo Dalot, who is fit but is still gradually being transitioned into the team.
The four at the back will be quite relieved to hear the news that Neymar and Edinson Cavani will be out of the clash through injury. However, they still have an extremely tough job on their hands. Kylian Mbappe and Julian Draxler are no pushovers and will be going at the from the start. They will have to be alert throughout.
Midfielders: Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba
Arguably the most inform midfield trio the Premier League has to offer at the moment. Jose Mourinho could never figure out how to find a balance in midfield in his two-and-a-half years at Old Trafford. Solskjaer has come in and has already succeeded where his predecessor failed. Matic, Herrera and Pogba have been immense since the Norwegian’s appointment.
Herrera has been at the heart of everything good United are doing. He has been doing the dirty work behind the scenes alongside Matic. This, in turn, has solved another one of Mourinho’s biggest conundrums: Paul Pogba. The Frenchman has been absolutely magnificent since Solskjaer’s arrival. He now has the most goal involvements of any player in Europe’s top 5 leagues. PSG will definitely be devising a special plan to keep him quiet.
Matic will have to be especially careful though. The Serbian picked up two yellow cards during the group stages. If he picks up one in this game, he will be suspended for the next leg.
Forwards: Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial
The shackles are well and truly off the front three, and it is a glorious sight to see them strutting their stuff. PSG have an incredible forward line of their own but with Lingard, Rashford and Martial running in behind, the Parisians’ defense are in for an extremely tough challenge. Rashford has sprung into life and has found his goal scoring boots, again, since Solskjaer’s arrival. Lingard continues to be consistent and Martial‘s goal at Fulham is evidence of how incredible he can be on his day.
This will be a game filled with interesting clashes, and the battle of the two front trios will be very interesting to watch.