In September of last year I wrote an article with the following headline — It’s really, really difficult not to dislike PSG, isn’t it?
It was a response to the disjointed, imbalanced performance away to Liverpool that confirmed their status as flat-track bullies.
Last night, the Parisian club sent a warning out to the rest of Europe.
This is a team desperate to shake off their ‘pretender’ tag and legitimise their claim to be global giants of the game.
Bottlers? Perhaps not.
PSG’s Old Trafford conquerors were unrecognisable from the prima donnas of Anfield.
Liverpool exposed the Ligue 1 club’s over-reliance on Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe as James Milner, Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson overwhelmed them in midfield.
Last night, Marco Verratti, Marquinhos and Julian Draxler edged out Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba in an engaging duel.
Granted, even a revitalised United are not on Liverpool’s current level.
But a European away fixture at Old Trafford is always big, big game.
PSG’s Italian passmaster was particularly impressive.
Verratti orchestrated several neat phases that allowed the visitors to carve through United’s lines and dampened the home crowd’s spirits.
The 26-year-old succumbed to the occasion of the Champions League knockout stages last season but his titanic performance at Old Trafford justified Thomas Tuchel’s risk.
If Verratti carried any lingering injuries, he didn’t show it.
It looked as if emotion would get the best of Angel Di Maria in the opening exchanges.
Twice he dwelled in possession as his former admirers in the stands booed with conviction.
But he refocused after Ashley Young barged him into the front row and assisted both of PSG’s goals.
Following Presnel Kimpembe’s opener, the Argentinian winger appeared to repeatedly yell ‘f**k you’ at the Old Trafford faithful.
Hardly dignified but it’s a welcome reverse of the spineless efforts of previous PSG outfits in European knockout ties.
All the talk before the game concerned how the odds had shifted since the tie was drawn from the pots.
United were revitalised under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer while PSG lost Neymar and Cavani through injury.
PSG defied the narrative to end the Norwegian coach’s honeymoon.
I certainly didn’t expect such a tactically disciplined defensive display from them — though Kimpembe could have seen red from a card-happy ref.
PSG proved they are capable of success without their front three.
Mbappe did his absent strike partners proud with an exhibition of acceleration — bloody hell, he’s quick.
If Tuchel can maintain the defensive concentration and midfield quality when/if Neymar and Cavani return then PSG may finally play to their potential when it matters most.
New PSG are more than welcome in the Champions League knockouts.