It started with a thumping volley into the roof of the net and was accelerated by Kylian Mbappé's daring run. First Angel Di Maria slammed into the railings and then Ole Gunnar Solskjær's Man United smashed back down to earth. Boom! Meet reality, the cruel mistress which routinely shatters the hopes and dreams of football fans around the world.
PSG journeyed to Old Trafford to take away a big 2-0 lead after their first leg clash. The architect of the disaster was the once much-maligned Man United signing Angel Di Maria. To the soundtrack of the boos and wails of the vocal home crowd, the winger danced down the left wing and left Manchester with two assists and one point proved.
Under Solskjær, several players have enjoyed remarkable resurgences. Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba, Victor Lindelöf have all markedly improved in recent weeks. The feel-good factor has extended to contract deals with Anthony Martial penning a long-term contract. However, amidst it all, Ashley Young was also offered a new deal.
Young has been a loyal servant and versatile asset for the Manchester club but tonight he looked like what he is, a 35-year-old winger filling in at right-back. The second option this season has been a 33-year-old winger filling in at right-back, Antonio Valencia. 19-year-old Diogo Dalot is progressing behind both of them but for now, a make-shift stop-gap is not a solution.
Ashley Young a "hero" for pushing Di Maria off the pitch. Yet, when it comes to what actually matters, he's been appalling. His crossing is a disgrace
— Andrew Cesare (@AndrewCesare) February 12, 2019
Defenses have won this, Ashley Young exposed reality hits hard
— John Ellis (@lambert_ellis) February 12, 2019
The gap between the sides was apparent but in many ways, Manchester United needed a night like this. A reminder that for all the talent there remains obvious weakness at the back.
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) February 12, 2019
Last September, Manchester United vice-chairman Ed Woodward issued a public promise to deliver 'world-class signings.’ Since the upturn in form all has been quiet on this front. As the clock ticked down, Di Maria posed with beer and eventually, PSG's party on the field spread to the Parisians in the stand, who cheered every pass. Now the clock begins for Woodward to deliver on his promise.
Work done, more to do. The honeymoon is over.