With the Quarter Finals of the biggest club competition rapidly approaching, we ask if Manchester United can win the Champions League this season? The red devils have been a different animal since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed as caretaker manager at the end of last year following Jose Mourinho’s departure. The quiet, unassuming Norwegian has steadied the ship and brought back the passion and organisation to United’s play.
His biggest success on his return to Old Trafford came in the Round of 16 in Champions League. The reds were hosting European powerhouse Paris Saint Germaine in the first leg at Old Trafford. United played ok, but Mbappe and co showed their class and ran out comfortable 2-0 winners.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, pundits and fans alike had accepted there was no way back in the second leg in Paris for United. The side would need to overcome a two-goal deficit, but more crucially, would likely need to score three away goals. A seemingly insurmountable task. Instead, Ole Gunnar was tasked with making sure the score in Paris ended respectfully and would allow the club to use something to build on for the next season. He and his players had other ideas.
How it Began
The game kicked off on a cold March evening and within two minutes Manchester United showed their intent when Lukaku’s opportunistic strike after just two minutes put United in front. This seemed to wake the Parisian’s into life and in the 12th minute, Bernat equalised after a sublime pass by Mbappe. This put the French side back in control and 3-1 ahead on aggregate.
The home side then proceeded to create a number of good chances, any of which if went in would have sealed the tie and ended any hope of Manchester United getting back into the game. Failing to take advantage of their opportunities was about to cost PSG when legendary keeper Buffon flailed at a ball, after an effort by Marcus Rashford, allowing the big Belgian striker Lukaku to slot in the red’s second goal to put them back in front on the night.
The Second Half
When the game went into the second half, it seemed to become a messy affair and no side really created anything too clear cut. A controversy was about to strike and give Man Utd the opportunity to seal a historic victory. With fans desperately watching the live score as it came in hoping it would change, Manchester United youngster Dalot hit a long-range speculative shot, which appeared to bounce off the PSG defender Kimpembe for a corner.
Dramatically at that point, the assistant referee called over the referee to examine an incident on VAR. After a long delay, to fans amazement, the referee came running back onto the pitch pointing at the penalty spot. It was a penalty to Manchester United and Kimpembe had been judged to have handled the ball.
Up stepped Marcus Rashford and completed a quite astonishing 3-1 victory for Ole Gunnar’s men. More remarkably, this win was the first time in the history of the European Cup that a 2-0 or greater home first leg defeat had been overturned. On the back of that success, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was rightly appointed the permanent manager of Manchester United and it will be his desire to take his side as far as they can in this competition.
So, what is there chances of lifting the trophy in Madrid on June 1st?
In the Quarter Finals, the challenge United face couldn’t really get any more difficult. They play host to the five-time European champions Barcelona. Manchester United and Barcelona are two of the biggest clubs in world football and the tie is mouth-watering. In Barcelona, Ole is set to pit his wits against one of the favourites to lift the trophy, a dream United will hope to end for the Catalan giants for another season. Worryingly for fans of Man Utd is that Suarez, Messi and co are all set to lift another La Liga trophy and are currently in dazzling form. In recent weeks, goals have come easy for the Catalans, scoring eighteen goals in their last five matches.
Manchester United will rightly be fearful of this. Messi, Suarez and Coutinho are three of the best players on the planet and when they hit top form there is little that can be done to stop them. The glimmer of hope for Solskjaer’s men is Barcelona’s defensive frailties. Barcelona have their own problems to deal with in this area. In their game at Villarreal, they were seemingly comfortable at 2-0 up but ended up drawing 4-4, with the Yellow Submarine’s scoring almost at will at points during the game. This should demonstrate that the Catalan side can be got at and United will have to try to exploit this weakness. If they do that there is a very real chance that can cause another upset in this year’s competition.
Navigating a very tricky tie against Barcelona would just be the first step on the way to Champions League triumph. Next up would be either a derby against rivals Liverpool or a much more manageable task in Porto.
Beyond that, it would be on to Madrid and several possibilities in the final. It could potentially be an all Manchester final against city rivals Manchester City. Or a blockbuster final against nearly men Juventus with the iconic Ronaldo facing his former side. Manchester United if they are to win the Champions League this season would be doing it the hard way. They have an almighty task of difficult ties to navigate to get there, but they have already come through one.
We know United like to do it the hard way and make history as they do it. Can they win the Champions League this season? Of course, they can!