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Manchester United are at risk of suffering a post Paris Saint Germain hangover

by Leo Nieboer

That night in Paris was footballing euphoria at its very best. But it looks to have come at a cost for Manchester United.

As players audibly sung and danced in the changing room after that momentous 3-1 result, Gary Neville asked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer an important question: how are you going to bring this group back down to earth?

That’s the thing about sipping on the sweet juice of pure elation. The morning after can be difficult. When you touch the stars, coming back down to earth takes longer, and hits harder.

And for Man United, that notion has come true. Defeat to Arsenal in the Premier League was not a bad performance at all but the visitors were punished for starting slowly. At Wolves, however, their presence felt non-existent. It was like nothing was under the bonnet. They lost deservedly, 2-1, going out of the FA Cup in the process.

There are many tactical reasons behind the defeat: the 4-3-3 formation up against Wolves’ back three did not make sense; some players, like Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial, were shoehorned back into the starting XI; Paul Pogba couldn’t find space; United as a whole were not covering enough ground.

More notably, though, it looked like the performance of a team whose serotonin levels have been maxed out over the last couple of months or so.

The Solskjaer mania steadily swelled in December, refracted into a full movement in January and Feburary, before hitting an ear-splitting crescendo in Paris. Now, after two defeats on the spin and the international break starting next week, the complexion for Solskjaer and his players has changed fundamentally.

This is where the human side of management becomes doubly important. Solskjaer, on top of getting tactics right for each game, must get these players back down to ground zero again, get them exploding out of the traps again, like they were at Cardiff.

You could easily divide the Solskjaer era into two chapters. The first was from December to March, a wonderfully happy story with a bittersweet ending. But he will be remembered – and judged – by how the second chapter is negotiated.

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