LONDON: Paris Saint-Germain do not need Neymar to get their hands on silverware and achieve success.
That is the message from young gun Kylian Mbappe who fired the capital club to the verge of the Champions League quarterfinals as PSG beat Manchester United 2-0 on Tuesday.
Heading into the clash the pressure was all on the French club. They lost their Ligue 1 unbeaten record the week before to Lyon and on top of being without their Brazilian talisman Neymar, they also took the field without their all-time top scorer Edinson Cavani, who injured his hip during the side’s 1-0 win over Bordeaux on Saturday.
By contrast, the hosts went into the clash on a high — unbeaten under caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with momentum on their side. The match, however, played out very differently to what most fans expected.
PSG played with nous, patience and flair, scoring two unanswered goals in the second half — Mbappe with the winner after Presnel Kimpembe’s 53rd-minute opener. In truth, if it was not for David de Gea’s usual brilliance in goal for United, the scoreline could have been much better and the tie put to bed before the return leg in three weeks’ time.
The clash offered up proof that PSG are finally maturing on the biggest stage of all and that they do not need all their stars to shine, according to the brilliant Mbappe.
“We need to stop with the scare stories. People need to stop being afraid. Of course Neymar is hugely important and Cavani is fundamental to us, but football is played on the pitch and we showed that today,” Mbappe said.
In the absence of the dynamic duo PSG, for once, looked more than the sum of their considerable parts. Even without Neymar and Cavani the side can still boast an attacking array of talents that would be the envy of most sides. Mbappe showed why he has the world at his feet aged just 20 and Angel di Maria again illustrated the kind of drive so lacking when he played at Old Trafford four years ago. But it was the overall team performance from 1-11 that impressed and they succeeded in inflicting a first defeat on United since the appointment of Solskjaer as their interim manager.
“In the second half we came out with the best intentions because we knew they wanted to step up the rhythm and especially get a goal at home,” added Mbappe, whose goal was his 23rd of the season in all competitions.
“We are happy, but it’s only half-time in the tie and we need to continue preparing well, because I think in the last 20 minutes we dropped off a bit physically.
“We have three weeks now to make sure we are ready for the return and ensure we qualify.”
PSG boss Thomas Tuchel has warned his side against complacency, saying: “We deserved to win, and to do so here at Old Trafford just now, I congratulate my team — but it’s only half-time and we still have to play at the Parc des Princes.”
For his opposite number the result was a reality check but Solskjaer said United would not lie down when they go to the Parc des Princes.
“There is a determination in the dressing room to put this right,” the United boss, currently favorite to get the job full time, said.
“We will give it a go. If we get to half-time with a one-goal lead, that is what we have to aim for.”