Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s audition to become Manchester United’s full-time manager has hit a hurdle.
The Norwegian’s sensational streak of 10 wins and one draw since taking caretaker charge of the Red Devils was ended by a 2-0 home defeat to Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.
Angel Di Maria, who lasted just a season with United before he was offloaded to PSG in 2015, stood out in the first leg of the round of 16 tussle. The Argentine seemed to revel in the heated reception he received from the Old Trafford faithful, setting up Presnel Kimpembe and Kylian Mbappe in the second stanza to hand his side a huge advantage heading into the reverse fixture on March 6.
To make matters worse for Manchester United, Paul Pogba received his second yellow card in the final moments and will therefore miss the second leg at the Parc des Princes.
Much of the buildup to the fixture centered around the absences for Paris Saint-Germain. To compensate for the losses of Neymar, Edinson Cavani, and Thomas Meunier, manager Thomas Tuchel selected Mbappe as the focal point in his attack, thrust Dani Alves into an advanced position down the right, and continued to field center-back Marquinhos as an ersatz midfielder.
But it was Di Maria – almost an afterthought when Neymar, Cavani, and Mbappe are all available – who made the difference from his spot on the left-hand side of the attack.
After an intriguing tactical battle in the opening half stumbled to a lackluster conclusion, PSG took control after the break.
Di Maria’s first telling intervention was to find Kimpembe from a corner. The winger counts an assist for his set piece but, in truth, Nemanja Matic’s failure to track the 23-year-old defender was the most telling contribution; or, indeed, non-contribution.
There was no question over who orchestrated the second. Di Maria was fed the ball down the left and took a few steps forward before skidding the ball across to Mbappe. The youngster converted past David De Gea with ease.
The first leg then seemed to sleepwalk to the final whistle until Pogba was sent off. Although the second caution for the midfielder did seem slightly harsh, Pogba, like a few others on the pitch, was toeing the disciplinary line after being shown a yellow card earlier in the clash.
There are another 90 minutes to be played in this matchup, but it appears to be over. If Solskjaer somehow coordinates a comeback in the French capital and progresses to the quarterfinals, it will be difficult to see any other eventuality than him getting the permanent gig.