McTominay and Fred the difference for United on a memorable night at the Parc des Princes

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With a little bit of VAR we can make it through the night

Last night the Champions League threw up another unforgettable evening that will stick in the memories of all who watched it. A seemingly impossible challenge faced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's injury-ridden Manchester United as they looked to overturn a two goal deficit inflicted by Paris Saint-Germain a fortnight ago.

But, after Romelu Lukaku capitalised on a sloppy back pass from Thilo Kehrer when the game was just two minutes old to give the visitors an early lead, belief started to be restored. Juan Bernat restored the Frenchmen's lead just ten minutes later however, tapping home from close range after finding himself unmarked at the back post.

Following the flying full-back's leveller, the game looked as though it was once again out of reach for United, before a ballsy long range effort from Marcus Rashford forced a terrible mistake from PSG's veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon; Lukaku's alertness saw him able to poke the ball home from close range - 2-1 to the underdogs.

An underwhelming second-half packed full of sloppy passes from the hosts, and unconvincing attacks from the travellers meant that the majority of us watching on from the sofa expected Manchester United to become the first English casualty of this season's Champions League.

That was until a controversial last minute penalty was awarded thanks to VAR, determining that PSG defender Presnel Kimpembe had handled the ball inside the area following a long range strike from United's Diego Dalot in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Step forward Marcus Rashford - cool as a cucumber, ice running through his veins - to rifle the ball past Buffon and book Manchester United's place in next month's quarter-finals. Football is a funny old game, isn't it.

McTominay and Fred turn United's weakness into strength

With Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba just four of the names missing from United's squad, barely anyone gave the Red Devils a chance at the Parc des Princes. 22-year-old Scott McTominay was tasked with holding together the visitors midfield in the absence of Pogba, alongside forgotten man Fred, who joined the club last summer for a fee north of £50 million.

With just 34 appearances between them in all competitions this time around, the duo were thrown into the deep end last night amidst all of United's untimely injuries, but put in a mature performance which played a massive part in the Premier League side's late triumph in the French capital. There were murmurs that the occasion would have got the better of a midfield pairing who have featured so little this season; that it would have overwhelmed them and the superiority of PSG's midfield would have been far too powerful to handle.

Instead, McTominay and Fred were calm in possession and worked tirelessly to win the ball back when out of it. With so little other options available to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in midfield, the fact that it's taken this long to give United's third-most expensive signing a run out is confusing after his performance against the Frenchmen.

Before last night, the Brazilian had made just 15 appearances for his new side, three of them under interim boss Solskjaer. His services were overlooked during the recent draw with Liverpool, where United's midfield seemed to just capitulate through injury at once, and he was only thrown into the starting line-up against Crystal Palace last week as there were literally no other senior options available to Solskjaer.

However, Fred's hearty performance in Paris last night will have done his chances in the first-team fold at Old Trafford no harm, and will surely see him included more frequently for United's remaining fixtures in both the Premier League and Europe.

Disrupt the tempo, be a nuisance

With a midfield pairing of Marquinhos and Marco Verratti - the two standout performers in the first leg at Old Trafford a fortnight ago - to contend with, Fred and McTominay were faced with a mammoth task last night. Already two goals behind, the first job United had to do was to not fall even further behind and shut the Parisians out; if they didn't, then it was game over before it started.

Solskjaer wouldn't have expected a miracle from his midfield duo, he wasn't anticipating a Luka Modric-esque passing masterclass from his makeshift pairing. What he would have tasked them with however, is to disrupt the flow of their opponents game in the middle of the park; to get in their faces, not give them a second on the ball and force mistakes from the usually flawless partnership who so frequently dictate play when PSG are in action. That is exactly what they did, and more. McTominay finished the match having made the most tackles out of anyone on the pitch (5), while Fred made just two less than the young Scot with three.

The pair didn't give PSG a moments rest in an area of the pitch that was always going to win the game, the usually so calm superstars of France's biggest side were unsettled throughout the tie and made uncharacteristic mistakes which ultimately cost them the game, and that's down to Fred and McTominay tirelessly doing their bit for the team, proving that they are capable of playing for Ole's new-look, ruthless, trophy-chasing team.

McTominay

Last night's win a "breakthrough" for Fred

Special mention has to go for Fred, who despite his 5ft 7 frame and somewhat timid nature, was the only player backing up team-mate Marcus Rashford when an array of PSG players desperately tried to disrupt the attention of the 20-year-old as he stood over what turned out to be the tie-winning penalty. He stepped in, pushed them all away and ensured Rashford was able to collect himself before smashing the ball home from 12 yards.

"They did a fantastic job, screening in front of their high midfielders and putting pressure on Verratti and Marquinhos. Excellent," said Solskjaer after the game, who also praised Fred's performance by saying that last night was a "breakthrough" for the 26-year-old.

Although last night's victory will deservedly be dedicated to both Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku, with plaudits also going to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - the man you simply cannot dislike - it was two unsuspecting members of United's makeshift line-up who impressed when it really mattered, with their involvement in the quarter-finals now surely indisputable.


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