United must take game to PSG — Solskjaer

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MANCHESTER — Manchester United will not sit back when Paris St Germain visits Old Trafford for the first leg of their last 16 Champions League meeting Tuesday, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said.

United is unbeaten in all competitions since Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho in December and its improvement is down to the Norwegian’s insistence on an attacking style of play, as opposed to the defensive fare served up by his predecessor.

“We’ve got to rediscover the Manchester United way of playing, and I don’t think many teams enjoy their nights at Old Trafford when we’re on song,” Solskjaer, who has 10 wins and a draw so far, said.

“It’s about taking the game to the opposition, always believing in yourself. If you asked other managers who played against Sir Alex (Ferguson)’s teams, the pace and the tempo going forward was key.

“I have three good forwards myself. As well as (Marcus) Rashford, (Anthony) Martial, (Romelu) Lukaku, we have (Alexis) Sanchez and (Jesse) Lingard. They can challenge PSG’s defense.”

Solskjaer’s managerial record in domestic competitions with United speaks for itself, but Tuesday’s match will be his first test against elite European competition.

Progress for United in the Champions League would reinforce the case for Solskjaer to be named United’s permanent manager and the 45-year-old has fond memories of the tournament.

“The biggest nights of my career have been Champions League nights,” said Solskjaer, who scored the winner for United in the 1999 final which helped the club complete a treble, including the Premier League and FA Cup titles.

“When you get to this stage of the tournament, with the floodlights on, these are the games that you really look forward to.”

Meanwhile, Edinson Cavani has been ruled out of the clash, French sports daily L’Equipe reported Sunday.

PSG said that Uruguay striker Cavani had sustained a hip muscle injury in Saturday’s 1-0 Ligue 1 victory over Girondins de Bordeaux adding to the side’s injury woes ahead of the last-16 first leg against a resurgent United side.

PSG is already without Neymar, who was ruled out with a foot injury, leaving the French side with only Kylian Mbappe as a world class striking option. However, the club did not say that Cavani would definitely miss Tuesday’s match.

“The treatment and the length of his absence will depend on the evolution (of the injury) in the coming days,” PSG said in a statement, adding that fullback Thomas Meunier would need to rest until next week after suffering a concussion.

Whereas an expensive flop who lasted just a single season at Manchester United, Angel di Maria might be keen to prove a point when he goes back to Old Trafford.

The Argentine, who turns 31 later this week, has a vital role to play for PSG in its crunch Champions League last 16, first leg against a resurgent United with Neymar and Cavani out injured.

Those absences will place even more of an onus on Di Maria to show why PSG is prepared to make him its superstar signing in the summer of 2015, two years before Neymar and Kylian Mbappe arrived in the French capital.

The former Benfica and Real Madrid man cost United a British record transfer fee of just under £60 million (almost 75 million euros at the time) in 2014, but he was an unmitigated failure in England.

Di Maria scored only three times in 27 Premier League appearances in 2014/15 for a United side which finished fourth, a long way behind champion Chelsea.

His time in England was also marred by an attempted burglary on his family’s home outside Manchester that reportedly left his wife and daughter terrified, and keen to get away.

His manager that year, Louis van Gaal, had hailed Di Maria as “world class” on his arrival, but their relationship quickly turned sour, with the player blaming the Dutchman for playing him out of position.

“I only stayed one year. It wasn’t the best period of my career, or they didn’t let me have my best time there,” Di Maria said in a recent interview with radio station France Bleu.

United made a loss when they sold Di Maria for 63 million euros (£44.3 million at the time), but it was very much PSG’s gain.

Nicknamed ‘El Fideo’ (The Noodle)in Spain for his slender frame, Di Maria is in his fourth season in Paris and recently extended his contract to 2021.

He has scored or created more than 70 goals in Ligue 1 for PSG, although he was signed chiefly to win big Champions League games and has been unable to prevent his side being knocked out in the last 16 in each of the last two seasons. — AFP


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