Fred sees red as United cast doubt on their Champions League knockout qualification.
United, who looked to have put potentially the most difficult group of this competition to bed after their 5-0 trouncing of Leipzig, now find themselves facing a desperate battle for qualification.
Many fans may too have been forgiven for thinking United had the edge over PSG – after all, the last two matches in which these European titans have faced each other both ended in elation for the Reds.
The statistic that was to be most foreboding however was one that has become an extremely worrying theme for the season – the last time these teams faced at Old Trafford, the Parisians outclassed and outgunned the Mancunians.
History seemed doomed to repeat itself when the most expensive attacking force in history capitalised on a lacklustre start by the hosts, with Neymar drilling home the rebound of an Mbappe shot with only six minutes on the clock.
Such a strong start inevitably led to an incredibly tense period of pressure from the visitors, and David De Gea performed well to repel a number of efforts in short succession.
The frustration was growing amongst Ole’s men, and finally it boiled over after only 20 minutes when Fred was seen to headbutt Leandro Parades in the heat of a confrontation. In the age of VAR, it had to be red.
And yet astonishingly it wasn’t. Fred escaped with a yellow.
Sensing their fortunes changing, playing on PSG’s frustration and channeling the comeback conviction of last weekend, United grew into the game and soon found themselves level.
The fortune continued to flow as Rashford’s effort caught a hefty deflection to roll past Keylor Navas, the boogeyman of last year’s Champions League finalists once again returning to haunt them. An action packed first half, and a tale of two 20 minute periods.
Half-time: Manchester United 1 – 1 Paris Saint-Germain
At St. Mary’s, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s half-time substitutions were lauded for turning the game on its head and forging victory from defeat.
So when Fred (on an extremely precarious yellow card) was given the nod to stay on the pitch, there was a level of trust that the manager knew was he was doing. The game was flowing in United’s favour, and Fred’s work in midfield was an important part of that transition.
Indeed, that trust would have been well placed had Anthony Martial demonstrated even a slither of his lethality in front of goal from last season only five minutes into the second half. Having been excellently teed up by Rashford, the Frenchman needed only to hit the target from an agonisingly close distance to give his side the lead. The ball sailed over the bar.
Ten minutes later, another chance. Cavani, in hot form and looking to prove a point against his former club, chipped a beautifully delicate effort over Navas only to see the ball rebound off the bar, and the PSG defence scramble it clear.
At this point, the viewing became glum.
First there was the Marquinhos goal. Alessandro Florenzi whipped in a corner and United totally failed to clear their lines, allowing the ball to whip around their box like a pinball machine before eventually finding the feet of the opposition captain.
Next, the immediate and inevitable dismissal of Fred. Straight from the resulting kick-off the Brazilian slid in on former teammate Ander Herrera, and though the second yellow was harsh, he could have no complaints after his lucky escape in the first half.
The desperation grew for United, and neither substitutes nor increased pressure could rescue their standing in the game. As every player was sent forward and found wanting, the inevitable counter-attack allowed Neymar to seal the defeat for Ole’s men.
As the final whistle went, three thoughts were on the minds of United fans everywhere.
Why was Fred kept on the pitch while Pogba and Van De Beek were such obvious replacements?
What has become of Anthony Martial’s finishing ability?
And most worryingly: How much are we going to rue that awful performance in Istanbul?
With all eyes on the final game in Leipzig, fans will be praying that all of these questions can be allayed with a strong, professional performance.
Full time: Manchester United 1 – 3 Paris Saint-Germain
Man of the Match: Neymar