It’s a remarkable statistic, but Manchester United’s defeat to Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday night was their worst ever home defeat in European competition.
But a two-goal margin, as record breaking as it may be, is not one you would say is impossible to overturn. Besides, this is Paris Saint-Germain – the unwilling architects of La Remontada – that we are talking about.
Yet the sting in the tail did not come with Kylian Mbappe’s poacher’s finish midway through the second half. What makes this tie veer close to insurmountable, will be the absence of Paul Pogba.
United’s record signing has become the talisman his transfer fee demanded of him in recent weeks. Rejuvenated under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the sloppy touches and over-hit passes that had so frustrated supporters were suddenly a thing of the past, buried with the Jose Mourinho annals.
The Frenchman – unleashed by the discipline of Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera – has become United’s linchpin, their tour-de-force, a goal-scorer and creator.
He has scored eight times in 11 games under his interim boss. For the first time in his career, his goal return in the league has reached double figures.
To lose him, then, to a second bookable offence so late in the game, is the toughest pill to swallow for Solskjaer and United.
Pogba will miss the return leg in Paris in three weeks’ time. For United and Solskjaer, this poses the difficult challenge of filling the void of their most important – the cornerstone to their revival in recent weeks.
It was a frustrating for the Frenchman, with PSG boss Thomas Tuchel setting out to stifle his creative influence.
Attached to his heels was make-shift midfielder Marquinhos – who excelled in a role he is slowly growing in to.
Frustration boiled over, and for Paul and Ince and Owen Hargreaves, he can have few complaints with the bookings dished out by the albeit card-happy referee Daniele Orsato.
Pogba’s first yellow was for a chipping away at Marco Verratti, while his second was a high and late challenge on Dani Alves.
His manager, though disagrees:‘He’s unlucky,’ said Solskjaer afterwards. ‘Paul Pogba is trying to get his body across and Dani Alves is clever enough to put his foot in there. Paul wants to shield the ball.’
Much was made of PSG’s dwindling numbers and the absence of Edinson Cavani and Neymar at Old Trafford.
In three weeks’ time those two star names could well return to help see out the tie at the Parc des Princes.
United, meanwhile, will have to overhaul a two-goal deficit without their most important player.