December 2, 2020 11:38:44 PM
Manchester United’s Champions League hopes are hanging in the balance but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is confident they will bounce back after poor finishing and Fred’s red card cost them against Paris St Germain.
Having started Group H in such stunning fashion, they end it needing to avoid defeat at last season’s semi-finalists RB Leipzig next week to secure progress to the knockout phase.
United would have sealed their place in the last 16 with a match to spare had they got a point against PSG on Wednesday – something they were on course for after Marcus Rashford’s deflected strike cancelled out Neymar’s opener.
But Fred’s sending off moments after Marquinhos put the visitors back ahead left the hosts with a mountain to climb and Neymar turned home in stoppage time to complete a 3-1 win at an empty Old Trafford.
“We know the destiny is in our own hands,” United boss Solskjaer said looking ahead to next week’s trip to Germany.
“We know that we play against a good team obviously. Leipzig were in the semi-final last year, but we are developing into a better team as well.
“Tonight, very pleased with the performance apart from of course they were more clinical. We need to be clinical in these types of games.
“Big games most of the time are decided by fine margins and today they were against us. I thought they were there for the taking for us beginning of the second half.
“I thought until they scored, we were the team most likely to get the important 2-1, but it wasn’t to be, and we’ve just got to dust ourselves off and be ready for Tuesday.
“But before that we go down to London at West Ham, so a great week ahead of us.”
United, PSG and Leipzig are all level on nine points heading into the final round of fixtures after a frenetic encounter in which Solskjaer’s decision to keep on Fred proved costly.
The Brazil midfielder looked set to receive a red card in the first half for pushing his head into that of Leandro Paredes, but referee Daniele Orsato only showed him a yellow card despite reviewing the replay.
Fred was then fortunate to avoid picking up a second booking in a first-half challenge with Paredes but was eventually given his marching orders in the second period – albeit on this occasion he could count himself unlucky.
“It was not a foul,” Solskjaer said of the challenge on Ander Herrera that saw Fred sent off having admitted to Norwegian TV that he “should probably have taken him off before”.
“Fred played a really disciplined second half and when he makes a tackle like this you can’t fault the boy. We spoke about it at half-time, just be sensible and he was. He played well.
“But of course the decision the referee made (in the first half) you maybe look back and say maybe he should have (been sent off). But there was no reason from his performance to take him off.
“He was lucky to stay on first half, the referee made a mistake there but that’s allowed. But Fred knows he shouldn’t put his head towards someone even though he doesn’t touch him.”
PSG head coach Thomas Tuchel could not believe Fred was not sent off in the first half and was relieved it did not prove costly for his side.
“From the sideline I had the impression that he gave him a headbutt to Leo Paredes,” he said.
“There was the confirmation with VAR and after that I was very surprised because I could not say until now if he touched him, but to give a yellow card I was very surprised. That means like he touched him but not hard enough for a red card.
“It was a surprising decision. For me, there was only two choices: either he did not touch him so it’s nothing, or he hit him and so it’s a red card.
“I was surprised but what can you do? I was too much into this game today. I was a bit worried in these moments that we lose maybe our head so I was more concerned to keep focused on the game, to keep my players in line than to worry about this decision.
“I am happy that we won and don’t need to discuss too long about these decisions.”