Scott McTominay and Fred put in a great performance for Manchester United against Paris Saint-Germain in their incredible 3-1 victory.
By the time Damir Skomina blew the final whistle, celebrations had already started. Mission ‘Not Impossible’ had been accomplished. Manchester United had pulled off the improbable at Le Parc des Princes. They had turned around a two-goal-deficit and qualified for the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League.
PSG looked stronger, Manchester United capitalised better
It’s not that United were the stronger of the two, the hosts were. PSG had dominated the possession and looked more likely to score than the visitors. United looked vulnerable even before the game began. Their most expensive player suspended and numerous key players unavailable for the fixture. Still Manchester United, known for those late comebacks, did exactly that in Paris.
Romelu Lukaku bagged two goals, Rashford struck a well-taken penalty past Buffon to take United into the quarter-finals. Beyond that, two players stood out; underrated and hardworking, Scott McTominay and Fred stepped up, put in great defensive work, thwarted PSG’s thrusting midfield from racking up damage. They wouldn’t have made the cut into the squad had the likes of Pogba and Mata been available but the youngsters made the most of their chance. They tackled PSG, intercepted and cleared their moves and at times moved the ball forward, for United to attack.
Both were crucial to United’s victory. Yes, Rashford and Lukaku have hogged the limelight for their performance and rightfully so. Luke Shaw has been lauded for his defensive work and rightfully so. A lot of the talk has been about the controversial penalty that helped United qualify and rightfully so. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been lauded for his tactical masterclass and rightfully so. But in the absence of the defensive duties, these players performed, the tidiness they kept, the grit they showed, the character they exhibited, United wouldn’t have scripted this comeback.
Three months ago, he played against PSG U-23s, Three months later, he started against their senior side with his team in need of something incredible. McTominay did not score any of United’s three goals nor did he assist but there was something exciting about his performance.
In Paris, amid all the pressure, McTominay made his presence felt. He, along with Fred, worked hard to break up PSG’s moves with their smart and alarming positioning. He was valiant, willing to make the right move at the right time. Five tackles and all successful against PSG reveals the confidence the youngster had. The 22-year-old also made an interception and a clearance.
His passing stats are also pleasing. The youngster may have only made 26 passes, but 25 of those were accurate. PSG had dominated the play, their midfielders dictating the tempo and what McTominay could do was disturb its flow, punctuate and use chances appropriately. And boy did he do his job? Perfectly, sir.
Fred, signed by Jose Mourinho and seen as their best buy in the summer transfer market, has so far struggled to impress in the Premier League. But on a gripping night in Paris, against European heavyweights PSG, Fred did what was expected of him.
He might not have run the game and contributed too much to the attack, but on a defensive note, he was impressive and crucial. The Brazilian midfielder tracked back to help Machester United defenders. He was vigilant throughout the night, ensuring his presence whenever PSG tried to tear apart the defence with all their creativity and pace.
Fred made three tackles, only McTominay managed more. He intercepted the ball once and made two clearances. The 26-year-old was composed on the ball. He must have known the consequences of giving possession away to PSG who are quick on counters.
The former Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder made 38 passes, 34 of those accurately placed. He played seven long balls, all placed accurately. Playing against the likes of Di Maria and Draxler, Fred barely flinched. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer effect? Maybe.
Going into this fixture, United’s biggest fear was their lack in depth. Manchester United were forced to field a relatively weaker squad. On another day when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has the entire squad to choose from, Fred and McTominay will sit out, and warm the benches.
The game could possibly have an impact on their future at Manchester United. They have impressed everyone with their character. They largely foiled and frustrated PSG’s midfield and embodied the United attitude. Although it is unlikely that Solskjaer will choose Fred or McTominay over the likes of Paul Pogba and Mata when they return.
However, McTominay and Fred have proven their ability with their performance against PSG. It is on nights like this where players need to step up and hold responsibility. And for that reason, Solskjaer, who could very well be their next permanent manager, couldn’t have asked for more.