Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told his players to take inspiration from Ajax’s 4-1 win at the Bernabeu in a team talk before Manchester United recorded a truly historic win over Paris Saint Germain.
Man United went into this game as cold hard underdogs, but Romelu Lukaku’s goal after just two minutes suggested something was stirring for the visitors.
PSG scored soon after, bringing the tie back in their favour, before Lukaku scored again to bring United within a goal of the quarter-finals. A patchy second half ensued and then, deep into injury time, Marcus Rashford scored a penalty which will be replayed by supporters all around the world for years to come.
So, what did Ole tell his players before the game. As you may imagine, the talk was quite simple.
No other club in the world does nights like this. Nobody.
It was, firstly, a performance full of grit and tactical acumen from Solskjaer and his players, who were all – aside from Eric Bailly – exceptional in their application from start to finish. The defence battled like their lives depended on it. The midfield, comprising of three fringe players in, went toe-to-toe with PSG’s superstars. Lukaku and Rashford scored the goals. It was a perfect team performance in Europe.
It was more than that, though. A lot more than that. Go back to three weeks ago, with PSG steamrolling United at Old Trafford. Obituaries were being written for their Champions League campaign – myself included.
Now they come to Paris, ten players out, to play a seemingly far superior team, and for 90 minutes they fight so hard to stay in the tie, yet it still doesn’t look like being enough. The game is slowly drawing to a close.
And then: drama. Pure, unadulterated drama – a kind of sizzling drama only possible at this level. The VAR check. That curdling feeling in your stomach. That penalty (oh, Marcus, that penalty). The celebrations. The sheer madness and joy of it all, coursing through your veins and making your hairs stand up.
There is nothing like supporting Manchester United – a club which does Champions League nights like no other team.