Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – When Manchester United were paired with Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last-16 draw in December there seemed likely to be only one winner.
United were stuck in a rut under the management of Jose Mourinho, while the French champions topped the toughest section of the group stages.
However, much has changed in the two months since. United go into Tuesday’s first leg at Old Trafford on a run of 10 wins and one draw since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced the sacked Mourinho.
PSG will have to cope without the injured Neymar for both legs of the tie due to injury and Edinson Cavani is also missing.
AFP Sports looks at five things Solskjaer has changed to give United hope of making the quarter-finals for the first time in five years.
Playing football the United way
“To win games you need to pass it forward and run forward.” The basics under Solskjaer may seem simple but they contrast sharply with Mourinho’s conservative approach that left a host of expensively assembled stars paralysed by fear of making mistakes.
The Norwegian spent more than a decade as a United player learning from Alex Ferguson and is trying to replicate the same aggressive, attacking approach ingrained in him by the Scot, who twice won the Champions League in charge at Old Trafford.
“It’s a winning identity, it’s a confident identity. We want to take risks. We want to go for the second, the third and the fourth goal because that’s just how we do things at Manchester United,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports.
Worryingly for PSG, it is not a naive approach solely based on bombing forward. Wins away at Tottenham and Arsenal in recent weeks exhibited United’s pace and firepower on the counter-attack, which could be the key to winning this tie.
Pogba leads way
While Mourinho butted heads with and routinely dropped Paul Pogba, Solskjaer has built his side around the French World Cup winner, with stunning results.
Pogba has scored eight goals and provided five assists in his past 10 games.
“Before the coach arrived I was in the shadows, on the bench, and I accepted that,” said Pogba. “It is a pleasure to play again. Now I am always smiling.”
The fact Marcus Rashford was rested at Fulham to keep him fresh for PSG, while Romelu Lukaku was handed a rare start says a lot for the change in his fortunes under Solskjaer.