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Man United need to avoid defeat to RB Leipzig to go through to the Champions League round-of-16 after PSG won at Old Trafford.

It became Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenet that Manchester United did not make it easy for themselves and that has become an obligation since he headed upstairs.

United dared to believe they could progress to the round-of-16 for the Champions League with two matches to spare and instead they face the daunting prospect of needing to avoid defeat at semi-finalists RB Leipzig next week. Paris Saint-Germain, piqued by recent humblings by United, became the fourth team to triumph at Old Trafford this season and a testing group will end with a taxing test for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

From Fred the Red to Fred devil. PSG represent the zenith of Solskjaer’s United epoch but he will curse not withdrawing the frantic Fred, sent off in the second-half after leading a charmed life in the first.

Fred was expelled straight from the kick-off after Marquinhos’ winner and the irony was he had stretched every sinew to toepoke the ball, though should have known Ander Herrera would exaggerate the challenge. Harry Maguire railed at the linesman for not noticing Fred’s contact with the ball but there was an inevitability about his red card.

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Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek had limbered up though none were called upon to replace Fred. Solskjaer would likely prefer to lament United’s finishing prior to Fred’s departure and the loss of Marcus Rashford through injury on a night where their performance had shades of the wasteful Europa League semi-final defeat to Sevilla.

United were almost as profligate as they were at Southampton on Sunday – particularly in the first 15 minutes after the restart – and however gettable the PSG defence is it has Marquinhos. Goal-blocker at one end and goalscorer at the other, blood wept from the Brazilian’s brow and for all the style at PSG it is the substance of Marquinhos that has drawn them level with United on nine points in Group H.

Neymar, absent on PSG’s previous visit to Manchester, ranged from lovable to lamentable. The last time Scotland rattled Brazil was at the 1982 World Cup and that only succeeded in sparking a pummeling. Scott McTominay fared better briefly with his momentum-swinging tackle on a riled Neymar, still stewing over it as he stomped back to the dressing room at half-time. Neymar eventually exacted revenge with the clincher.

Neymar is a name punters would pay to see but he mirrors the charmless champions of France. McTominay’s stirring challenge would have brought supporters off their feet if they were present and the United staff greeted it raucously. That set the tone for a dominant start to the second-half against a PSG unrecognisable from the fearless side that had grabbed the game by the lapels at its start.

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RB Leipzig’s late victory at Istanbul Basaksehir intensified the need for PSG to take three points and they started and ended like the team that needed to win whereas United resembled one in need of a point until Rashford’s deflected equaliser in the 32nd minute. Neymar and Kylian Mbappe played with a gravitas that deserved an audience and the former thrashed the ball past David de Gea on six minutes.

The Parisian partnership of McTominay and Fred was reformed and fortunate to last half-an-hour. Leandro Paredes is the second Argentinian to feign agony at Old Trafford this season but, unlike Erik Lamela, somehow failed in getting his aggressor dismissed.

“He didn’t f—–g touch him,” Harry Maguire wailed. Fred’s headbutt grazed Paredes and the indignant PSG players swarmed him. Referee Daniele Orsato had the benefit of rewatching the flashpoint on the pitchside monitor and only carded Fred, perhaps swayed by the classless conduct of the PSG players and the deceit of Paredes. Paredes later left one on Fred, only to suffer a subtle stamp to prolong the Argentinian-Brazilian animosity. Bruno Fernandes urged Fred to stop quarreling. So the substitute Herrera started one.

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“F—–g aggression,” Maguire clapped. Neymar attempted to confront McTominay as the players approached the tunnel and then demanded more protection from the unconcerned Orsato. Nor was the referee fussed about reviewing Fred’s tackle on Herrera.

Anthony Martial showed why he has literally been moved aside for Cavani with a lackadaisical swipe in the 49th minute that left Pogba on his knees in disbelief and Solskjaer disgusted. Seven is associated with a winger and Martial, after requesting to reclaim the ‘9’ last year, should perhaps swap numbers with Cavani.

Cavani still mimicked Cantona with an imperious 25-yard chip that bounced off the crossbar and Martial hit Marquinhos on the rebound on a night the Frenchman was as culpable as Fred.

Of the array of attackers available to PSG, it was the centre-back Marquinhos who punished Martial, replaced by the redundant Odion Ighalo in the dying embers. “Again, again, again,” De Gea demanded at 2-1. The cavalry was summoned; Pogba fired over and Van de Beek was bright but Neymar decisive.

United have not made it easy for themselves.