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Man Utd loss to PSG does not make Solskjaer naive.. even Fergie struggled to mastermind many European triumphs

IT DID NOT take long for the berating of Ole Solskjaer to start.

The short drive home from Old Trafford was long enough for us to be told on a phone-in by Irate of Iratia that Solskjaer was tactically naïve.

But they weren't piling in elsewhere.

No mention of Anthony Martial missing a sitter that would have put Manchester United 2-1 up against Paris Saint-Germain and in the driving seat to gain the point they needed to qualify from Group H.

Nor the fact that Edinson Cavani’s chip shortly after was cruelly denied by the bar.

Nope, the Norwegian was now clueless because he hadn’t subbed Fred at the break when he should have already been off the pitch for a first half head butt.

Looking back Solskjaer probably knows he made the wrong call, but did it cost the game and should it really cost him his job, if they ultimately do not qualify from Group H?

In his defence while Fred should have gone for the first offence, he did not lose his head after that and it was not a second yellow for the tackle on Ander Herrera.

Imagine if Sir Alex Ferguson had decided to sub Eric Cantona every time he was on a yellow or in danger of losing it.

Not like for like in terms of talent, those two players obviously, but Solskjaer felt Fred was doing a good job.

Perhaps it says more about the faith Solskjaer has in Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic that he kept the Brazilian on.

If United ultimately fail to get the point in Leipzig they need Solskjaer would not be the first United manager to come up short in Europe, and against poorer sides than he has faced this season.

It took Sir Alex Ferguson a good chunk of the nineties to get the hang of this competition and he came up short plenty of times pre and post his two successes in the competition, both of which in 1999 and 2008 came with some good fortune in the finals.

Indeed they mask a poor return from the spending power United had under him and from the teams he fielded.

For example what would fans be saying had Solskjaer presided over United’s Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich in 2009-10.

They were 2-1 down from the first leg in Germany but sprinted into a 3-0 lead inside the first 41 minutes at home, but could not hang on to their advantage.

The decision to play an unfit Wayne Rooney backfired as he was hauled off after 55 minutes, Rafael da Silva got sent off and finally Arjen Robben hit Bayern’s crucial second goal on the night to go through 3-2 on aggregate.

Look elsewhere through Ferguson’s time.

First round exits in 2003-04 and 2004-05 to Porto and AC Milan respectively.

They would get knocked out of a group in 2005-06 that included Villarreal, Benfica and Lille, the fans turning on the players after the defeat away to Lille.

Likewise in 2011-12 they would go out of a group that once again included Benfica but also Basel and Otelul Galati.

Recently Wayne Rooney blamed Ferguson’s tactics in both the 2009 and 2011 finals which they lost to Barcelona 2-0 and 3-1.

Ferguson wanted to play Barcelona at their own game, a game only they could play.

Rooney said: “I think all the players knew, deep down, it was the wrong approach.”

The tactics that had curtailed Barcelona in the 2008 semi-final over two legs had been abandoned in those finals.

Yet Ferguson was given a pass on both occasions because, well, hey it was against that great Barcelona and we all went with the narrative.

One of the most inexplicable semi-final exits he suffered was against Bayer Leverkusen in 2001-02 semi-final on away goals, 2-2 at Old Trafford and 1-1 away.

‘Hardly a footballing powerhouse,’ as one senior figure at the club said to me later that week.

The point I am making in all this is that mistakes in Europe at the very highest level can be made by the very best and Wednesday night does not make Solskjaer, architect of two away wins over PSG, naive.

The great Louis van Gaal went out in the Group Stage of the 2015-16 Champions League with United when the opponents were PSV Eindhoven, CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg.

The following season it was the round of 16 in the Europa League.

When Jose Mourinho talked of United’s lack of European heritage in the wake of his Champions League exit to Sevilla with the club in the last 16 in 2017-18 he had a point and still does.

Indeed since that 2011 final they have gone out in the group stage twice, last 16 twice, quarter-finals twice, spent two full seasons in the Europa League and once didn’t even qualify for Europe.

To get out this Group of Death that includes last season’s semi-finalists and Bundesliga title contenders RB Leipzig, French Champions and last seasons finalists PSG and Champions of Turkey Istanbul Basaksehir would for Solskjaer be an achievement in itself.

As they head to Germany next week they need a point to do that.

Even the very best have come up short and against a lot weaker opposition than he has had to face.

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