Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United not out of it yet, vows Ole

First blood: Luis Suarez celebrates after Luke Shaw’s own goal last night
First blood: Luis Suarez celebrates after Luke Shaw’s own goal last night
Passionate: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer demands more from United’s players

By Simon Peach

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says his Manchester United side can stage an unlikely comeback to keep their Champions League dream alive.

Barcelona left Old Trafford with a slender 1-0 advantage following last night's quarter-final first leg.

Luis Suarez's header from Lionel Messi's pass deflected in off Luke Shaw in the 12th minute and was confirmed by the video assistant referee after initially being given offside. Solskjaer will take hope from last month's jaw-dropping win at Paris St Germain, when his United side became the first team in Champions League history to overturn a first-leg home defeat of two goals.

"We're still in this tie," said the Norwegian. "We're playing against a great team but we'll go there with the knowledge we can score over there."

In last night's other quarter-final first leg clash, Juventus ace Cristiano Ronaldo netted his 125th Champions League goal in a 1-1 draw at Ajax.

A repeat of Barcelona's only defeat at the Nou Camp this season, 4-3 against Real Betis, would be enough for United.

But the men from Old Trafford have now failed to have a shot on target in a Champions League game for the first time since March 2005, in a 1-0 defeat at AC Milan.

As the 20th anniversary of Solskjaer's treble-sealing triumph against Bayern Munich approaches, the former striker will have to upset the odds at Barca's home once again if his side are to progress next Tuesday.

"Scott McTominay was fantastic," added the United boss. "Every time he plays for us he is improving. He's a great athlete, wins his challenges and quick on his feet. He started settling us to be fair.

"We played a good team. We know you have to defend a lot without the ball and you might be tired when you get the chance yourself.

"We did as well as we could against Messi, kept our shape well. It could have gone both ways. I don't think we hit the target and that's a disappointment. We go there with work to be done. There's plusses and negatives. We started sloppy and a bit nervous. After their goal we settled and played well.

"We had very good individual performances in midfield. At times it felt like a proper Manchester United team, the crowd were behind us, we got out wide and got crosses in.

"We didn't start great, but great goal and movement from Messi and Suarez but they're fortunate it comes off Luke Shaw. It's a blow but we settled well."

It's four defeats in five games for Solskjaer now but United defender Chris Smalling said he was pleased Barca lacked a ruthless touch.

"We pressed them high and made it difficult. It's a shame we couldn't get the goal," said Smalling. "I thought we created some good chances.

"We had a spell in the first half where we went after them and then we looked nervy, but after half time we got at them.

"The whole team, we nullified them. I think there was only one other save for David de Gea. We knew we had to bring that intensity that they're not used to.

"It was a good battle, my yellow card on Luis Suarez out of all the challenges I thought it was the softest."

United midfielder McTominay added: "In the first 10 minutes we showed them far too much respect but after that we adapted really well and looked the better side.

"Barcelona are top class, it's difficult to get the ball. We have to do more in front of goal, score more goals. It's a big second leg to go. It's only half time. We are Manchester United and you can never write us off."

Former United defender Gerard Pique said he enjoyed his return to Old Trafford.

"After seeing the PSG game, you do not have to trust the result, look what happened, big clubs can do these things, you have to work it out," said Pique.

"It was special to come here after so many years, we are defensively at the best moment of the season, I feel comfortable, very well because of my age."

Belfast Telegraph


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