Manchester United’s last-16 second-leg Champions League tie at Paris St-Germain tonight is not “mission impossible”, says interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The match is coming against the backdrop of Ajax’s spectacular comeback against cup holders, Real Madrid last night at Santiago Bernabue where they won 4-1 after 1-2 loss in Amsterdam three weeks ago.
United lost the home leg 2-0 and will need to make history to progress and club has ever advanced in the knockout phase after losing at home by two or more goals in the first leg.
“Goals always change games. We’ve got to get the first goal and then anything can happen,” Solskjaer said.
“Football is a technical and tactical game but it’s also a mental game. If we get the first one we would start believing more and then they might start doubting themselves.
“It’s never mission impossible. It’s just more difficult.
“Everyone knows we can do it. In the Champions League in the last few years there have been so many examples of teams that can change results like this.”
United have won 13 out their 16 fixtures in all competitions since Solskjaer took charge in December.
However, despite domestic victories away at Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea, United’s last away win in the knock-out phase of the Champions League was in April 2011 against Schalke.
“When nobody believes in you there is always that bit of character in yourself that you want to show,” Solskjaer added.
“Making history is not the motivation. The motivation is going through. These players aren’t used to losing.”
Solskjaer’s side also go into the second leg in Paris with the suspended Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez among 10 first-team absentees.
Sanchez will be missing for four to six weeks after going off injured in the 3-2 win over Southampton on Saturday.
Defender Phil Jones is out with illness, while Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Nemanja Matic and Matteo Darmian are all injured and not among the 20-man squad that travelled to France.
Teenagers Tahith Chong, James Garner, Angel Gomes, Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams have been included.
Meanwhile, Edinson Cavani faces a late fitness test ahead match for Paris St Germain’ according to coach Thomas Tuchel.
The Uruguay striker, who picked up a thigh injury last month and missed his club’s 2-0 win in the first leg at Old Trafford, has taken part in the last two training sessions.
“He took part in the last two training sessions in full, but we are going to wait until tomorrow,” Tuchel told a news conference yesterday.
“We have decided to wait and make a decision on his participation in the game tomorrow.”
No club has ever progressed to the next round of the Champions League after losing the first leg of a knockout match at home by two or more goals (34 previous cases).
Paris St-Germain have lost just one of their last 16 Champions League games at home (W10 D5), but that defeat came in the last 16 last season against Real Madrid (1-2).
None of the last six English sides to face Paris St-Germain at the Parc des Princes have won. In fact, the only English team to prevail away from home versus PSG were Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in September 2004 (3-0).
Four of the last five two-legged encounters between teams from England and France in the Champions League knockout phase have seen the French side progress.
PSG have scored 35 goals in their last 10 Champions League home games but haven’t kept a clean sheet in each of the last five.
Manchester United have won only one of their last 10 Champions League knockout games (D3 L6), with this coming against Olympiakos in March 2014 (3-0 at Old Trafford). Their last away win in the knockout stages came eight years ago against Schalke (2-0), in April 2011.
Manchester United have lost their last two Champions League matches (1-2 away in Valencia in the final group stage match, 0-2 defeat to PSG in the first leg of this tie). They haven’t lost three games in succession in the competition since March 2005.
The heaviest margin of defeat that Manchester United have suffered over a two-legged European tie is by three goals; in the 1957/58 European Cup semi-final versus AC Milan (2-5 on aggregate) and in the 1991/92 Cup Winners’ Cup Round of 16 against Atletico Madrid (1-4 on aggregate).