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IAN HERBERT: Manr United's comeback win still a long way from PSG triumph

  /  autty

It’s approaching 600 days since the Parisian night which suggested that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was returning Manchester United to the kind of high plain that Sir Alex Ferguson’s players once strode.

That breath-taking Champions League win over Paris Saint-Germain in March last year was about youth, courage, ambition and hope.

The club will come full circle this week on Tuesday, when they return to Parc des Princes in the same competition, and although this was a credible comeback win to send them there and extinguish the memory of that Old Trafford evisceration two weeks ago, it was no more than that.

It this was yet another reminder they are still staring up the face of a mountain in their drive to reach the top.

It helped that Solskjaer dispensed with a player whose indifference to the club bears out all the suspicions Ferguson had for him and his agent.

With Paul Pogba safely reduced to the bench, there was scope for Scott McTominay to demonstrate the presence and stature at the back of midfield which makes United a better team when he is in it.

You imagined Ferguson nodding appreciatively somewhere as his young compatriot located Daniel James with probing passes in the channels in the first half.

There was a kind of salvation for Harry Maguire, too. There seems to have been a gratuitous pleasure taken where Maguire’s struggles are concerned and the look on his face as his side fell behind made you fear for what the night might have in store.

The towering header, as he escaped the attentions of Jamaal Lascelles to power in an equaliser, deconstructed the narrative where he was concerned.

He would have scored again had Jonjo Shelvey not cleared another second-half header off the line.

But there were some moments of Maguire difficulty that would probably have been highlighted more had Sky Sports wheeled the same quality of in-game analysis for its £14.95 Box Office customers that it does for those who subscribe to its channels.

The cross Allan Saint-Maximim lifted from the byline for Callum Wilson around the hour mark was too much for Maguire to cope with, sailing over his head to present the striker with an opportunity to send Newcastle ahead which he could not seize.

Maguire cut out several of the balls down the right which Wilson might have run on to but he and Victor Lindelof are pale imitations of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, whose contrasting skills made United so impenetrable for so long.

The point about Ferdinand and Vidic was they looked out for each other. It would help Maguire’s development to have someone alongside him that he, too, could trust, but Lindelof is not that man.

The deflection off Luke Shaw’s knee which left the Red Devils trailing was unfortunate, of course, but the ease with which Newcastle slashed through United’s midfield on the counterattack was desperate to behold in a side experiencing their worst start to a Premier League season.

The real story of that goal lay in its early stages, with Callum Wilson turning Lindelof and finding Saint-Maximim, who threaded the ball through Fred’s legs and found Shelvey racing into more open space than he could possibly imagined would be available to him.

The look on Lindelof’s face looked like blind panic as Newcastle began that advance and that moment was enough to tell us that this is a United side lacking the fundamental defensive faculty needed to deliver football befitting their wealth.

Lindelof is beginning his fourth season at United now. He would have been long gone were Fergie still at the helm. He does not befit a side with serious ambition.

The larey Sky promotional clip on continuous loop before the game boasted of the ‘skill, style and panache’ on offer for all those willing to part with £14.95 for pay-per-view time and again this season.

It seemed like a joke at United’s expense when they conceded so soon.

The best of United came from Juan Mata and Bruno Fernandes, working the midfield spaces with some moments of genuine class.

Mata was the game’s outstanding player and the winning goal came from the night’s outstanding combination.

It was not just Bruno Fernandes’ finish which took the breath away but the 60 yards of turf he cleared, receiving Donny van der Beek’s ball at a point level with his own penalty area, processing it on, racing those yards to take it back from Marcus Rashford’s instep and driving home the winner.

Aaron Wan-Bisska’s goal, his first senior one for the club, reflected his own capacity to find space.

The week ahead will be one of reflection on United and how far they have travelled since Paris. Not far enough for a club of their immense wealth.

But they at least restored some sense that they’re recovering.