The Champions League round of 16 gets underway when Manchester United host Paris Saint-Germain at Old Trafford on Tuesday (3pm ET).
When the knockout-round draw was made back in mid-December, Man Utd were in a dreadful run of form, having lost three, drawn three and won just two of their last eight matches in all competitions, and it was PSG who looked like the clear favorites to progress.
The French champions do remain the odds-on favorites to progress with the American sportsbooks, but United have improved sufficiently in the meantime to suggest it may be a closer encounter than first expected. Jose Mourinho was sacked the day after the draw and replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has overseen an upturn in results.
Man Utd put together a run of eight consecutive victories following Solskjaer’s arrival as interim coach, including triumphs over Tottenham Hotspur in the league and Arsenal in the FA Cup, and remain undefeated under his watch with a record of 10 wins and a draw following their 0-3 victory away to Fulham on Saturday.
Things could have been very different had Fulham finished off a couple of superb early chances. Having survived that onslaught, United took control with goals from Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial prior to the 25-minute mark. Pogba added another from the penalty spot in the second half to confirm what was eventually a pretty comfortable victory, and one that kept Man Utd in the race to possibly pip Arsenal and Chelsea to fourth.
In all likelihood, the club’s directors will still target a big-name coach this summer, but Solskjaer is certainly doing his chances of securing the role on a permanent basis no harm. Not only have results improved, but Manchester United’s underlying numbers at both ends of the pitch have also got better, albeit through what has largely been a fairly kind schedule.
PSG are arguably a better side than any Solskjaer has faced to date, and even without the injured Neymar, still have enough quality to cause United problems at Old Trafford. They weren’t really in the game for much of their 2-3 defeat away to Liverpool during the group stage, but still very nearly managed to get a point. They triumphed 2-1 in the return in Paris.
While it is certainly possible to question the overall quality of the French league, PSG’s record of 18 wins, two draws and just a single defeat – away to third-place Lyon at the start of February – remains impressive. So does their haul of 26 wins, four draws and three defeats in all competitions. Despite a difficult draw alongside Napoli and Liverpool, they still recorded some of Champions League’s best underlying numbers during the group stage.
Many of those things have been true of previous incarnations yet PSG have still failed to go further than the last eight since the arrival of Qatari fortunes to the club in 2011. They have been eliminated at this very stage in each of the last two seasons. The January arrival of Leandro Paredes has provided coach Thomas Tuchel with another high-quality option in midfield, but whether it is enough to tip the balance in their favor remains to be seen.
The club’s directors certainly wouldn’t have been particularly happy to see themselves drawn against English opposition in the round of 16. While Manchester United represent kinder opposition than Barcelona and Real Madrid, PSG’s vanquishers in each of the last two seasons, PSG were dumped out of the competition by English opposition in three consecutive campaigns between 2014 and 2016.
Man Utd also have a strong record against French sides in European competition. They have won 14, drawn 10 and lost just two of 26 such matches, including an undefeated record of 10 wins and three draws at Old Trafford. They have triumphed in each of their last four knockout ties against French opposition. Solskjaer was on the pitch, and even scored, in their one and only elimination at the hands of a French side, against Monaco in 1998.
Our Preview’s Man Utd vs PSG Picks & Betting Predictions Verdict
PSG are not a typical Ligue 1 side. That much is made clear by their double figures advantage at the top of its table. In Kylian Mbappe, they have one of the most explosive strikers in the world. Their overall ability to create high-quality shots means that even against an improved United, it is the French side who can be expected to prevail. So these are the Man Utd vs Paris Saint-Germain predictions for this Champions League soccer preview: