Manchester United’s worst nightmares have been confirmed.
The fact that The Red Devils finished second in Group H of the UEFA Champions League spelled trouble. The potential list of opponents included Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, PSG, FC Porto and Borussia Dortmund. It is worth noting that Manchester City was unavailable for being an English side, and that Juventus couldn’t be the opponent since United already met them during the Group Stage.
An opponent such as Porto or even Borussia Dortmund would have been a “decent” draw, perhaps acknowledging that there are no easy teams at this stage in Europe. But instead, United got one of the toughest opponents available in PSG. Certainly not the draw fans were hoping for. Considering Manchester United’s problems on defence, one wouldn’t have liked an opponent with a furious attack. But since nothing has been easy for The Red Devils this season, now they will face arguably the most talented attacking line in the world.
A difficult opponent for Manchester United
Manchester United’s biggest concern this season has been their defence, so Jose Mourinho shouldn’t be happy about this draw. PSG have one of the deepest teams in Europe, and are absolutely deadly on the attack. Their trio of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani has already combined for 43 goals (!!) across all competitions. Neymar leads the way with 16, Mbappe has 15, and Cavani has 12. Their Champions League totals look frightening as well: Neymar has five goals and two assists, Mbappe registers three goals and four dimes, and Cavani has found the back of the net twice while setting up two more.
PSG manager Thomas Tuchel acknowledged that United have not played very well in the Premier League this season, but believes this game will be “a clash of styles” between a “defensive team” (Manchester United) against an “attacking one” (PSG). But as hurtful as those words might be, they shouldn’t surprise anybody. The differences between both sides are palpable, and United have a very tough fixture ahead of themselves if they want to reach the quarterfinals. Will they be up to the challenge?
How did the other English sides fare in the draw?
The other Premier League sides received mixed bags when it comes to their Round of 16 opponents. Manchester City will take on a struggling Schalke 04, which should represent an opponent similar to Shakhtar Donetsk and Olympique Lyon, their opponents in the Group Stage. Tottenham, who survived a tough group featuring Barcelona and Inter Milan, will take on Borussia Dortmund. And Liverpool, who already faced PSG and Napoli during the Group Stage, will face Bayern Munich.
Undoubtedly, The Reds have a tough path if they want to repeat last season’s final appearances. But so does Manchester United. Will they avoid a second-consecutive Round-of-16 elimination?