Manchester United face the daunting task of keeping out Paris Saint‑Germain without their captain on Tuesday after leaving the injured Harry Maguire at home.
Bruno Fernandes will instead wear the armband in the Champions League opener because of Maguire’s minor injury. The usual captain is one of a clutch of absentees for the trip to Paris including Mason Greenwood, Eric Bailly, Edinson Cavani and Jesse Lingard.
Greenwood was an unexpected withdrawal from Saturday’s Premier League win at Newcastle and there was mystery over the nature of the 19-year-old’s injury, with Ole Gunnar Solskjær refusing to provide any detail on it.
“That’s between, err … I can’t declare medical stuff, can I?” Solskjær said. “We hope it’s just a niggle and, as young as he is, we don’t want to take any chances with him so hopefully at the weekend he’ll be fine again.”
Solskjær denied that Greenwood’s absence was for disciplinary reasons.
Fernandes, who will captain United for the first time, has scored 15 goals and made 11 assists in 27 appearances since joining from Sporting Lisbon for a basic €55m (£46.5m) plus €25m in add-ons in January.
“I think I am playing well in the last few months but you always have to improve and I can do much better than I did before,” Fernandes said. “I know my numbers are good but I am sure I will do better numbers and better games.”
Solskjær announced that Fernandes would be the captain at his pre-match press conference at which the pair sat together. The news appeared to take the Portuguese by surprise.
“I was not expecting this, I know the [same] time as you,” he said, via a wobbly video conference feed. “It’s an honour. But everyone is the captain, everyone needs to help and be a leader in their own way.”
With no Maguire or Bailly, Solskjær will rely upon a makeshift central defence against the might of Neymar and Kylian Mbappé as he looks for another shock result in Paris. Two seasons ago, when in caretaker charge, his team beat PSG 3-1 to advance to the Champions League quarter-finals.
“That’s history for us, it’s in the past,” Solskjær said. “Great history, great game, but it has no impact whatsoever. We’re a different team, they’re a different team and it’s a different stage of the competition. And without fans, it’s going to be a different game. In the last game when we got the first goal early on, that impacted the ground. This is a completely new situation.”