Manchester United were missing 10 first team players but their young stars pulled off a Champions League shock of epic proportions.
A lifelong Manchester United fan and product of their academy Marcus Rashford had never taken a penalty for the club before but he showed nerves of steel from the spot to send the Red Devils into the Champions League quarter-finals on away goals.
The 21-year-old smashed his injury-time penalty past Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) keeper Gianluigi Buffon to give United a 3-1 lead, which they held through the remaining five minutes of injury time to shock the French side, who had led 2-0 on aggregate going into the game.
According to ESPN, United became the first team to progress in the knockout series of the Champions League after losing at home by multiple goals in the first leg.
What made the victory even sweeter for United is that Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s men went into the game with 10 first team players on the sidelines, forcing the coach to give two teenagers in Tahith Chong (19) and Mason Greenwood (17) debuts off the bench.
The missing players included influential midfielder Paul Pogba, who had been sent off in the first leg at Old Trafford.
Referee Damir Skomina awarded the late penalty to United after a lengthy video review that showed defender Presnel Kimpembe jumping up to block Diogo Dalot’s shot with his elbow.
Rashford ,who was made to replace the ball multiple times before taking the spot kick, kept his nerve, blasting the ball past Buffon to send the United fans to his left into raptures.
One man who was not a fan was injured PSG star Neymar who took to Instagram to vent his frustartion with the match officials for even awarding the penalty.
“They even put four guys who do not understand football to keep watching it in slow motion… this is surreal. How can the guy [Kimpembe] put his hand if he’s on his back? Oh f*** off,” was the translation of his Instagram story caption according to Bleacher Report.
The win sent the English football world into a frenzy as pundits and former greats alike heaped praise on Rashford in particular.
UK television host Eamonn Holmes described the win as a “miracle”
English soccer great Gary Lineker was left awe-struck writing on Twitter. And the praise didn’t stop there, with several prominent Man U fans chiming in on social media.
Red Devils legend Rio Ferdinand called the turnaround “unbeilevable”.
United was handed an immediate lifeline when PSG gifted Romelu Lukaku a second-minute opening goal, before equalising through left back Juan Bernat in the 12th minute.
United scored from its first attack when Lukaku intercepted a back pass from Thilo Kehrer, rounded Buffon and slid the ball in from a tight angle.
Then, the hugely experienced Buffon spilled a low shot from Rashford and Lukaku turned in the rebound.
Sensing Buffon’s uncertainty, Rashford fired another shot just wide as United finished the first half strongly. PSG’s defence was having another one of its bad nights, a recurring theme during the knockout stages of a competition it has never won.
Three years ago, PSG went out after beating Barcelona 4-0 at home and losing 6-1 away. PSG played tentatively during the second half, knowing United needed only one goal to qualify on the away goals rule.
Romelu Lukaku celebrates one of his two goals.Source:AFP
Mbappe remained PSG’s biggest threat, and his pace took him clear through on goal with six minutes left only for the French star to stumble and for Bernat to smack the loose ball against the post.
Post-match the celebrations and the joy in the Manchester United locker room came through when Pogba crashed Rashford and Lukaku’s interview.
Rashford again remained calm and revealed that was the key to smashing the ball past the legendary Buffon.
“Just had to keep a cool head you know, they’re the type of things you do in practice every day — I wanted to take it,” Rashford said.
Rashford himself made a simple statement via his own Twitter, while the Man U commentary team went ballistic in their box.
United star Jesse Lingard also went absolutely bananas on Instagram.
The photos of the crazy night sum up just how incredible an achievement it was for United to come back from the death and keep the Champions League campaign alive. But while it was ecstasy for the English side, it was pure agony for PSG.
How did PSG let it slip?Source:AFP
The visiting fans were certainly happy about the result.Source:Getty Images
Even United stars couldn’t believe the result.Source:Getty Images
The win comes on the back of Tottenham Hotspur making the final eight with a win over Borussia Dortmund, and Ajax Amsterdam shocking Real Madrid.
And after United were finished the surprises kept coming with Portuguese side Porto moving into the final eight after they too came from behind to advance past Roma with a 3-1 extra time win that gave them a 4-3 aggregate lead.