The match against PSG at Old Trafford will be Solskjaer’s biggest test to date as Manchester United manager, but the Parisians have been rocked by injuries to key players.
Manchester United v PSG
Tuesday 12th February, 20:00
We’ll find out what Solskjaer is made of
Manchester United are, once again, a force to be reckoned with in English football. The appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has brought about the revitalisation of Manchester United’s form in the league. Since the sacking of ‘the Special One’ in late December, Manchester United, have been on an eleven game unbeaten run, winning ten and drawing once. For comparison, in the eleven matches before Mourinho’s sacking, Man Utd managed only five wins, three draws and three draws. Results aside, it is felt that the old Man Utd swagger is back, Mourinho’s defensive approach allowed sides to attack them, which saw the Manchester club frequently drop points, and pick up only eighteen goals in his last eleven games in charge. Whereas under Solskjaer, Man Utd have started to put teams to the sword more often, in eleven games in charge, Solskjaer’s United have scored twenty-eight goals averaging 2.55 goals per game. They have began to dominate teams as the side have won six of their eleven games by two or more goals.
However, an argument that Mourinho can have is the fact his last eleven games consisted of much tougher games than what Solskjaer has faced so far as Man Utd manager. In those eleven games, United lost to Liverpool at Anfield, Man City away and Valencia away, although by that point Mourinho’s side were already through to the knockout stages in the Champions League. Also Mourinho managed a shock win against Italian champions, Juve in Turin in this period. Despite a 1-0 win over Tottenham, Man United have not really came up against a side which they can call their equal, in terms of star quality in the side, until Tuesday where they meet PSG.
Man Utd, under the old regime, showed they could cope with teams in the Champions League defensively whilst playing at home. Despite picking up a mixed bag of results at home, United have picked up two clean sheets in their last three matches at Old Trafford in the Champions League. Solskjaer has adopted this form in the games he’s taken charge of in the league, in eleven matches his side have earned five clean sheets and conceded only seven which is an average of less than a goal per game (0.64). An interesting stat coming from their defensive efforts is that none of their Champions League games at Old Trafford have ended with both teams scoring. However, six out of eleven of Solskjaer’s have ended with goals coming from both sides.
PSG must go without Neymar and Cavani
When you were looking at this fixture when it was drawn, you’d be forgiven for thinking the French side would blow the English giants away. However within that time Man Utd have begun to play with a lot more vigour after the appointment of club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and PSG have lost key players to injury in the weeks leading up to this tie. Neymar, Meunier and Cavani are to miss this game.
In domestic football, PSG are currently top of Ligue 1 leading by ten points. Impressively, the Paris side have only lost once all season in the league, picked up two draws and nineteen wins. PSG have blown their league counterparts away with sixty-eight goals in twenty-two matches this season, averaging over three goals per game (3.09). PSG have won five in their last six, scoring nineteen in this period. Despite dominating their league however, PSG have been somewhat average away from home in the Champions League, winning once, drawing once and losing once while on their travels. Also their goals average playing away from home plummets to 2.33 goals per game compared to the 3.33 goals per game they score when playing at home in the competition.
One of PSG’s main strengths this year has been scoring goals, in the league they have been able to maintain a goal average of 2.83 goals per game, home and away in in the Champions League. However, their weakness in the Champions League has been conceding goals in the Champions League, in six group matches, the Parisians have failed to pick up a single clean sheet. At the same time, both teams have scored in all of their group games both home and away. A more positive stat is that PSG have not failed to score in any of their games. To summarise, I would expect goals from both sides as PSG have shown they have the ability to score and concede goals.
Injury woes may prove decisive
Though it is true, PSG have scored in each of their Champions League matches, picking up seventeen goals in the group phase. The French side will have to play the match against Man Utd without top goalscorer; Neymar. The Brazilian has scored five goals in six games and assisted two times in the group stages. Also PSG will be without Edinson Cavani who picked up an injury in his side’s win over Bordeaux. Together the South American duo have produced over 40% of PSG’s goals in the Champions League. A saving grace for PSG is they will still have Kylian Mbappe in the side. The French wonderkid has produced three goals and three assists in six Champions League matches. Thomas Meunier looks like he will be missing in this tie. The Belgian has picked up two assists, offering a different attacking threat from right wing back. Marco Verratti faces late fitness tests to be fit for the game at Old Trafford.
Man Utd are without any real fitness concern. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer rested Marcus Rashford against Fulham after the young forward sustained a dead leg in the win over Leicester a week before, he trained on Monday, which means he will most likely feature against PSG.
Striking in-balance to be PSG’s downfall
Despite PSG’s dominance over their league, the bookies have made Man United favourites for this one. The home side are 13/10 favourites to win the match, whereas PSG are 21/10 to win. I have to say I agree with the bookies here. PSG’s form away from home in the champions league has left a lot to be desired and the loss of key players previously mentioned, will be a damning factor for the Parisians in this one. Though you do get good value in a Man Utd win on its own, I recommend adding value using additional markets. For Man Utd to win and both teams to score has odds of 11/4 to be successful.
In addition to both teams to score, for Man Utd to win and over 2.5 goals being scored in the match gets odds of 9/4. The price decrease from a both teams to score likely comes from the fact the bookies would be unsure if PSG would get goals given they have lost Cavani and Neymar.
PSG’s most likely outlet for goals in the game is Kylian Mbappe. It can be imagined that if PSG were to get goals on Tuesday night then it would be from the young Frenchman who is second in the goal charts behind Neymar in the Champions League. For Mbappe to score anytime, the bookies are offering odds of 4/5.
If you are looking to add this game as part of an accumulator with multiple selections, use the draw no bet market to offer yourself more cover on the bet. For Man Utd to win (draw no bet) you can get odds of 13/20.
Man United to win and BTTS (11/4)
Kylian Mbappe to score anytime (4/5)