Manchester United will not sit back when Paris St Germain visit Old Trafford for the first leg of their last 16 Champions League meeting on Tuesday, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said.
United are unbeaten in all competitions since Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho in December and their improvement is down to the Norwegian’s insistence on an attacking style of play, as opposed to the defensive fare served up by his predecessor.
“We’ve got to rediscover the Manchester United way of playing, and I don’t think many teams enjoy their nights at Old Trafford when we’re on song,” Solskjaer, who has 10 wins and a draw so far, told the UEFA website.
“It’s about taking the game to the opposition, always believing in yourself. If you asked other managers who played against Sir Alex (Ferguson)’s teams, the pace and the tempo going forward was key.
“I have three good forwards myself. As well as (Marcus) Rashford, (Anthony) Martial, (Romelu) Lukaku, we have (Alexis) Sanchez and (Jesse) Lingard. They can challenge PSG’s defence.”
Solskjaer’s managerial record in domestic competitions with United speaks for itself, but Tuesday’s match will be his first test against elite European competition.
Progress for United in the Champions League would reinforce the case for Solskjaer to be named United’s permanent manager and the 45-year-old has fond memories of the tournament.
“The biggest nights of my career have been Champions League nights,” said Solskjaer, who scored the winner for United in the 1999 final which helped the club complete a treble, including the Premier League and FA Cup titles.
“When you get to this stage of the tournament, with the floodlights on, these are the games that you really look forward to.”
Ajax form a worry ahead of Real Madrid date
Ajax Amsterdam’s promising young cast rekindled memories of past glories by reaching the Champions League last 16 but Saturday’s league defeat has underlined their recent poor form and set the alarm bells ringing with the upcoming visit of Real Madrid.
The 1-0 loss at Heracles Almelo was only the second time Ajax had been beaten by the provincial team but was marked by players arguing with each other in a defeat teenage captain Matthijs de Ligt termed “scandalous”.
A repeat performance against Real Madrid in Wednesday’s first leg would be fatal to their chances of progressing in Europe’s top club competition.
“We cannot afford to play as we did against Heracles. If we do so we will be slaughtered. For Ajax to be outplayed by Heracles is scandalous,” De Ligt told reporters.
Just months ago, Ajax were being lauded after finishing behind Bayern Munich in the group phase, eliminating Benfica and AEK Athens. They were also breathing down the necks of PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch league race, hoping to end a four-year title drought.
But since returning from the winter break, Ajax have won only twice in five outings, including a 6-2 defeat at arch rivals Feyenoord, and slipped six points off the pace in the Dutch championship.
Dutch newspapers have been quick to offer reasons for their recent struggles.
“Ajax do not look to have the mental strength to stand up to Real,” was the scathing summation of former Dutch international Wim van Hanegem in his regular column on Monday.
Others have speculated about the side being plagued by too much individualism, blamed a porous defence and said manager Erik ten Hag had his hands tied by a restrictive transfer policy.
Frenkie de Jong has also come in for criticism. The midfielder is heading to Barcelona at the end of the season after his 86 million euros (75 million pounds) transfer agreement but he has not been living up to that price tag.
Dusan Tadic feels all is not lost, however.
“I believe we can still beat anyone,” said the midfielder at the weekend.
“Others might be talking about how badly we are playing now but we must go out and show we can still do it.”
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