Marcus Rashford’s stoppage-time penalty secured injury-hit Manchester United an extraordinary victory against the odds at Paris St Germain as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer steered his side into the Champions League quarter-finals.
Just 22 days after suffering his only defeat as caretaker manager in the first leg, United arrived in France looking to become the first side in the competition’s history to progress after suffering a first-leg home loss by two goals.
The odds were stacked against them – but United turned the improbable into reality in an extraordinary Parc des Princes clash, securing a 3-1 victory and progress on away goals.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 6, 2019
Romelu Lukaku scored either side of Juan Bernat’s effort in a first half which had Solskjaer’s side dreaming, with the video assistant referee’s stoppage-time time intervention leading to a penalty that Rashford slammed home.
United were without 10 players at the big-spending Ligue 1 champions, but those selected embodied the positivity displayed by their manager and spirit synonymous with the club over the years.
The visitors flew out of the blocks and Lukaku capitalised on a mistake within two minutes, slotting home after showing strength and skill.
Thomas Tuchel’s side rallied and looked set to roar ahead after Bernat turned home Kylian Mbappe’s cross, only for Gianluigi Buffon to spill a hopeful Rashford shot into the path of Lukaku.
It was a frantic first half followed by a far edgier second period and United’s hopes of reaching a first quarter-final since 2014 looked to be over – until added time.
Presnel Kimpembe was adjudged to have handled a Diogo Dalot shot after referee Damir Skomina looked at the incident on a monitor – and Rashford did the rest.
The celebrations at full-time reflected the magnitude of the win and could well prove to secure Solskjaer the job permanently.
Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward sat next to Sir Alex Ferguson in the Parc des Princes, where even eternal optimist Solskjaer would have struggled to have predicted his team’s start.
Rashford pressed lackadaisical Thilo Kehrer into a backpass that Lukaku latched onto, holding off the considerable presence of Thiago Silva and darting past Buffon to slide home after just 111 seconds.
But that dream start awoke the hosts and Kylian Mbappe looked most likely to do the damage, going agonisingly close to meeting a cross before twice being denied in quick succession by Chris Smalling.
The 20-year-old star could be seen imploring his team-mates to remain calm and that composure brought a 12th-minute leveller. Dani Alves carved open the visitors’ backline with a ball that Mbappe impressively swept across for the unmarked Bernat to turn home at the far post.
The Parc des Princes erupted and the hosts kept their foot on United’s throat, starving them of possession as Bernat and Angel Di Maria tried their luck.
United were getting precious few glimpses at goal, so Rashford’s strike wide on the break looked particularly wasteful.
However, moments later, his hopeful strike brought an unlikely second goal for United.
Rashford took aim from distance and Buffon flapped as the ball skipped off the turf, with Lukaku reacting well to turn home on the half-hour mark.
In the second half Di Maria’s joy at scoring against his former club was short-lived as he was rightly called offside from Mbappe’s flick, with United’s defence staying resolute and organised as PSG probed.
David De Gea gobbled up a hopeful Di Maria attempt as United frustrated an increasingly tense-looking home side.
PSG players were trying to whip up the home support, who were on their feet as Thomas Meunier tried his luck before Mbappe raced through. The striker lost his footing under pressure from De Gea and was then denied by Smalling, before Bernat struck the outside of the post.
Teenager Tahith Chong and debutant Mason Greenwood came on – before the dramatic end to the contest.
Dalot’s hopeful shot looked a waste until the VAR review sign came on the big screen and referee Skomina jogged towards the touchline monitor.
Having told United’s bench to leave him alone, he reviewed Kimpembe’s potential handball and eventually pointed to the spot.
PSG players tried to get into Rashford’s head before the penalty but there was no stopping the England international’s strike – and no way past United’s backline thereafter as the visitors held on.