PSG trip may end in disappointment for Manchester United but optimism will remain high - unlike in 2005
Progress under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer means United's fans are in upbeat mood, even if European football for season likely to end on Wednesday night
Wednesday’s trip to Paris is likely to be the last European adventure for Manchester United fans this season, but their fans have bought out their allocation of 2,400 tickets for the trip to the Parc du Princes.
PSG fans raised the roof at Old Trafford in the first leg and they will do the same at home in the second.
Despite their resurgence, injury-hit United are clear underdogs after their 2-0 defeat in the first leg.
PSG have won all five games that they have played since beating United and their clear objective this season is now to win the Uefa Champions League for the first time, with the Ligue 1 title effectively already wrapped up.
No United fans realistically considered their team as winners material in this season's competition, even after coming from behind to win at Juventus in November in the group stages.
Paris and the last 16 is likely to be where it ends for United. Paul Pogba is banned after seeing red in the first leg and there is a significant injury list too.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will talk optimistically and players like Andreas Pereira and Scott McTominay, who have taken their chances because of the injuries, will relish the chance to challenge themselves in a big Champions League night environment. Eight of the players in United’s squad are homegrown.
Besides, whatever happens, it is unlikely to be as bad as United’s only other trip to play in Paris, a 2005 Champions League game against Lille.
United have never played PSG before until two weeks ago, but Lille moved their game two hours south to the capital as their old stadium only held 15,000.
The decision was vindicated as a 66,470 crowd made the journey to Stade de France, a record for a Champions League or club league game in France.
It was a wretched night for United in what was a year to forget for the club. The game came a few months after an unpopular takeover by the American Glazer family and losing the FA Cup final to an inferior Arsenal side.
United had finished third in the league they had become accustomed to winning or being runners up. Third was viewed as failure and the 2005-06 season had not started well.
United went to Paris having been hammered 4-1 by Middlesbrough in the Premier League the weekend before.
Two days later, captain Roy Keane gave an interview to MUTV which was deemed so strong in content that it was not broadcast. Many fans hoped it would give a verbal rocket up the backsides of the players searching for a first away win in the Champions League for two years, a first away goal in a year.
The United team was Edwin Van der Sar, Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Mikael Silvestre, John O’Shea, Cristinao Ronaldo, Alan Smith, Kieran Richardson, Darren Fletcher, Wayne Rooney and Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Keane would soon exit the club but he was classed as injured for the game in Paris.
That did not stop United fans singing their captain’s name before during and after the game. His criticisms struck a chord, but the players could not respond. And it was not as if they were in Milan or Munich. Claude Puel’s team was physical but limited.
Lille scored the only goal of the game after 38 minutes and their fans started a successful Mexican wave until it stopped abruptly at the United end. The travellers were in no mood to party.
Instead the United fans chanted ‘Attack, attack, attack’ and ‘Ooh aah Cantona’ to the tune of the French national anthem, but no equaliser was forthcoming.
At the final whistle, Van Nistelrooy ambled over to the travelling fans by himself. The other players had applauded from the half way line, but the Dutchman wanted to make a point that the support was appreciated.
He was cheered for his efforts, but the mood in the United end was still seething with discontent.
The result meant that United slipped to third group in D with two games to play having scored in only one of their four Champions League games, failing to go beyond Christmas in Europe for the first time in a decade.
Sir Alex Ferguson said afterwards: “It was a difficult game and the pitch was poor. We put a lot of effort in without any joy.”
The mood in Paris was unforgiving, even towards the legendary United manager. His stock fell to the lowest point with fans since 1990 and there was genuine concern over whether Ferguson was the right man to lead United forward once again.
That concern was short-lived. United beat Chelsea in the following game, the start of six games unbeaten. The much-needed improvements arrived with Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic in January 2006, the team won the League Cup, the Premier League in 2007 and then the Premier League, Champions League and World Club championship in 2008.
Solskjaer’s present revival is already underway and whatever the result, there will be a party in Paris as buoyant United fans sing his name throughout.
Published: March 5, 2019 05:43 PM