Paris Saint-Germain manager Thomas Tuchel thought Angel Di Maria was made stronger by the treatment he received from Manchester United fans.
PSG comfortably defeated United on Tuesday night. The Parisians were solid in defence and exposed the Red Devils’ defensive frailties with goals from a set piece and a quick counter-attack.
Why did Man Utd fans jeer Di Maria? Five things to know…
- Di Maria was signed by Louis van Gaal in 2014 for a then-British record transfer fee of £59.7m in 2014.
- He failed to make an impact at Old Trafford and was left for PSG just one year later.
- The Argentina winger scored just four goals in 32 appearances for United.
- In a thinly veiled jibe, Di Maria recently implied Van Gaal failed to play to his strengths.
- Di Maria was booed by United fans in Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat, in which he assisted both PSG goals.
Tuchel says he was surprised by the way United fans treated the Argentine, but claims their decision to do so was counterproductive to the Red Army’s cause.
“I think the guy is very competitive,” Tuchel told reporters. “Like all my South American guys. And if you tease him it does not make him weaker, of course.
“It was a kind of a hard time, but not so much, and I was a bit surprised, because I thought he had a good relationship with the fans.
“But OK, it’s like this, nothing big, we could see he was a bit nervous, maybe wanted to show too much, he not calm enough in the first half but he stepped up and was a very decisive second half.”
Tuchel added he felt Di Maria was playing with nerves in the first half and that he could be burnt out by the number of fixtures he’s featured in of late.
He continued: “He kept his confidence after the first half because it was a bit hard for him playing right in front of me and losing easy balls. So he had a bit of a hard time because I was close to him. Maybe he was a bit nervous.
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“Maybe he is a bit overused, because he plays all the time for us, he is a guy that gives always, 100% training, in the games, so I’m happy that he stayed confident, he’s super-reliable because he’s always working hard and always gives his best, then it’s easy to forgive him when he does not have a good first-half.”
Can Man Utd salvage the Champions League tie?
United will not only have to overcome a two-goal deficit when they head to the Parc des Princes for the second leg, but they will be without star man, Paul Pogba, who is unavailable after receiving a second yellow card in the first leg.
There will very few believers in a United comeback and former Reds captain Gary Neville is certainly not one of them. Despite being part of a United side renowned for their ability to triumph over adversity, Neville predicts the Reds will come up short in Paris:
“They were outclassed, Paris Saint-Germain were the better team and the tie now looks beyond Manchester United,” he told the beIN Sports.
Neville’s former colleague, Peter Schmeichel was far more optimistic: “There’s a three-week period now, anything can happen before the second leg and make no mistake, Manchester United will have learned a lot from today. An awful lot.
“In three weeks you can improve a lot. You can train a lot. You can come up with a proper plan.”
United play PSG on 6 March.