Manchester United must mount a miraculous recovery operation to keep their Champions League campaign alive after they were overpowered by Paris St-Germain at Old Trafford.
Second half goals from Presnel Kimpembe and Kylian Mbappe secured victory for the French champions, with Paul Pogba sent off for two yellow cards late on.
United’s revival with 10 wins in 11 games under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer raised hopes that this was the night they could reclaim their place in Europe’s elite.
Instead, they were outclassed by PSG to suffer their first European home defeat by a margin of more than one goal and will now need to produce something remarkable in Paris on 6 March to stand a chance of advancing to the Champions League quarter-finals.
Solskjaer’s hopes were hampered by first-half injuries to Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial but PSG made light of the absence of injured Brazilian superstar Neymar and striker Edinson Cavani.
Former Manchester United misfit Angel Di Maria was their tormentor, his 53rd minute corner allowing Kimpembe, arguably fortunate to still be on the pitch, to escape the attentions of Nemanja Matic and sidefoot past David De Gea.
And it was fitting that the brilliant Mbappe, whose searing pace was a threat all night, enhanced PSG’s position of superiority when he turned Di Maria’s inviting cross past the exposed De Gea on the hour.
If United’s plight was not bad enough already, it was made worse when Pogba was sent off for a second yellow card in the final minute of normal time and will miss the second leg.
Reality bites for Solskjaer
Solskjaer has done a remarkable job in transforming the mood and performances since succeeding sacked Jose Mourinho in December – but this was his toughest night since he arrived back at Old Trafford.
It was no reflection on Solskjaer that United lost, they were simply the victims of a better team that still possessed an outstanding attack in the shape of Di Maria and Mbappe, even in the absence of Neymar and Cavani.
Solskjaer and United’s cause was not helped by injuries to Lingard and Martial in the opening period, the latter particularly damaging given his brilliant recent form.
United could not be faulted for effort or character but they simply did not have the weapons to trouble Thomas Tuchel’s side as they exposed United’s defence through the width and delivery of Di Maria and the irresistible speed of Mbappe.
Solskjaer will not give up hope ahead of the second leg in Paris but logic suggests this is the end of the road for Manchester United’s Champions League ambitions.
Di Maria answers the jeers
Di Maria’s frustrating spell at Manchester United after a then British record £59.7m move from Real Madrid was reflected in the barrage of jeers that accompanied him throughout this Champions League tie.
The Argentine, often poorly utilised by manager Louis van Gaal, lasted only a year before leaving United for Paris in a £44.3m deal having never produced his finest form.
Here, to their pain, Manchester United and their fans witnessed exactly what they could have had.
Di Maria shrugged off the abuse, and a needless barge from Ashley Young that sent him flying painfully downhill and into Old Trafford’s cinder track in the first half, to make contributions of real significance in PSG’s win.
And how he enjoyed it.
It was his corner that fell to Kimpembe for the opener and he showed what he was really all about when he outpaced United’s retreating defence and put the second on the plate for Mbappe as he arrived with perfect timing.
Di Maria was given a standing ovation by PSG’s fans when he was replaced late on after finally showing his real worth at “The Theatre Of Dreams.”