Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel has explained why the challenge of facing Manchester United has completely changed since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took charge at Old Trafford.
When PSG were paired with United in the Champions League Round of 16 back in early December, United were labouring under Jose Mourinho and the outcome seemed something of a foregone conclusion.
But Tuchel’s team will on Tuesday take on a side who have won 10 and drawn one in 11 matches since Solskjaer – making him the outstanding candidate to take the reins on a permanent basis.
And Tuchel knows his side will be in a tough game, suggesting facing United under Solskjaer is among the hardest in world football right now.
“I think it’s completely different,” he said. “They play with a lot of confidence, they score a lot of goals and get a lot of early leads.
“It’s an impressive run. To play at Old Trafford in this moment against this Manchester United is one of the toughest challenges you can have.”
PSG’s task is made no easier by injuries to key players, with forwards Edinson Cavani and Neymar sidelined as well as right-back Thomas Meunier. That will require changes but Tuchel said the Ligue 1 leaders cannot stray too far from what makes that successful.
“Obviously we’re going to be missing a couple of key attackers, but you don’t change your identity for that reason,” he added through a translator. “We have a tradition, we play attacking football and that is how we’re used to playing – to create chances.
“It’s in our DNA. That’s how we play. To change it is really difficult.”
The absence of the world’s most expensive player, Neymar, will put the spotlight on the world’s most expensive teenager, Kylian Mbappe.
But while Tuchel does expect Mbappe to shoulder the load himself, the coach said this can be an important moment in the World Cup winner’s development.
“He has his own qualities,” Tuchel said. “It’s not really his job to replace Cavani and Neymar – he can’t do three things at once, he can only play his game with confidence. I want us to be capable to help him, to provide him with the right support.
“In my opinion he needs to play with a good mindset, to be positive, and realise this is part of his development. These kind of moments can be really important to develop a player.”
They have been suggestions that a win over PSG will earn Solskjaer the job on a permanent basis, but the Norwegian denied such claims when facing the media earlier on Monday.
“Yes, it is too simple (to stay),” Solskjaer said.
“You have so many ways of asking those questions. It is too simple, there are a few months left of this season. There’s still a few more months left of this season, to do whatever I can for the club.
“We’re going to play against some top teams, but our focus now is just in this next task. We don’t look too far ahead because then you lose your focus. We’re looking forward to this.
“Now it’s just a focus on this one. It’s always been like that. It’s been one of the biggest pluses that the players have stayed focused on the next task.”
Solskjaer also discussed their opponents PSG: “It’s been fantastic to see their progress in the last years.
“I played against them for Molde in 95 and the transition has been amazing. Buffon and Silva have been two of the best players in the world. They have Mbappe and Neymar.
“We know we’re playing against a team with confidence because they’re used to winning.”
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