MANCHESTER, England — Kylian Mbappe and Paris Saint-Germain handed Manchester United a reality check under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, winning 2-0 in the Champions League last-16 Tuesday to inflict the interim manager’s first loss.
Angel Di Maria was the architect of both goals in the first leg on his return to Old Trafford as PSG more than coped without injured forwards Neymar and Edinson Cavani.
The winger’s corner was volleyed in by Presnel Kimpembe for his first PSG goal in the 53rd minute. After having a bottle thrown at him by United fans and taking a sip, Di Maria helped to complete a counterattack by crossing for the advancing Mbappe to score.
United will be without Paul Pogba in the second leg on March 6 in Paris after he received a second yellow card in the 89th minute for a lunge on Dani Alves.
"I know Paul wants to just shield the ball so he’s unlucky that he hits (Alves) on the knee," Solskjaer said.
Without two of its usual front three, the French league leader commanded the midfield instead, with Marco Verratti the orchestrator.
"It was a new system and we weren’t really used to it," Mbappe said after scoring his 23rd goal of the season. "We had a lot of midfielders and not many forwards. We needed time to adapt, even though you can get punished for that in the Champions League."
But it was United that was exposed instead.
Not only was it a first loss for Solskjaer in his 12th match since replacing Jose Mourinho, but the heaviest-ever home defeat for United in Europe, having previously only been beaten by one-goal margins.
In the night’s other last-16 game, teenager Nicolo Zaniolo scored twice to lead Roma to a 2-1 victory.
United’s lacklustre performance was a continuation of the European form under Mourinho in the group stage. United has only scored one goal at home in four Champions League games this season, a 1-0 victory over Young Boys.
"It was one of those experiences that can go either way," Solskjaer said. "It’s not going to be a season-defining one for us. It has to be one that we are going to learn from."
Aside from victories in north London against Arsenal and Tottenham, facing PSG was United’s biggest test since beating Italian champion Juventus in Turin in November in the group stage.
"You can see we haven’t played games at this level for a while," Solskjaer said.
Twenty years after winning the Champions League as a United player, this was Solskjaer’s first taste of the competition in management having only previously coached Molde in his native Norway and Cardiff before being hired by United.