Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is determined to ensure there is no repeat of the disastrous slide in fortunes Manchester United experienced following their other recent away win against Paris St-Germain.
After they secured that momentous victory at the Parc de Princes in 2019 to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit to reach the Champions League quarter-finals, United’s results, by Solskjaer’s admission, were “shocking”.
They won two out of 12 games and finished the season by drawing with Huddersfield and losing at home to Cardiff, both of whom were relegated.
It explains why Solskjaer was in upbeat mood after the 0-0 draw with Chelsea, even though it left United 15th in the Premier League in the week when they again won in Paris.
“It is a point on the board against a good team,” said Solskjaer. “Last time we beat PSG we struggled big time. Our results were shocking. We hardly won a game. I am keen that it doesn’t happen again.”
United’s season delicately poised
Solskjaer cannot afford for it to happen again. For, while his side have started a very tricky run of fixtures fairly well, their Premier League campaign is delicately poised.
Should Brighton beat West Brom on Monday, United could end this round of matches in 16th place.
But there is mitigation.
Firstly, they have a match in hand – at Burnley – after they were allowed to start the season late due to their Europa League campaign not finishing until the middle of August. Had that match been played, and won, they could now be fifth.
In addition, they are below Southampton and Newcastle on goal difference, courtesy of that freak 6-1 home defeat by Tottenham on 4 October.
However, the legitimate argument of United being in a false position is tempered by what lies ahead.
Arsenal may not have beaten a ‘big six’ rival away from Emirates Stadium in 28 games since 2015 but Mikel Arteta’s side look more solid than in previous years and could have taken a point from their visit to Manchester City on 17 October.
The Gunners will not travel to Old Trafford next Sunday with any sense of inferiority and United have already gone five games without a win on home soil, something that has never previously happened in the Premier League era. Three without a win at the start of the season is their worst run since 1972.
A week after that, Solskjaer takes his side to Everton, scene of a humiliating 4-0 defeat in the aftermath of that previous PSG victory in 2019. United have won twice and lost four times out of their last eight trips to Goodison Park.
It tended to be one of their toughest fixtures of the season even before Carlo Ancelotti took over and transformed Everton into a side capable of reaching the Premier League summit.
Should United fail to win either match, as was the case at the start of this month, it will send them into another international break facing major question marks over Solskjaer’s leadership and the spectre of Mauricio Pochettino hanging over him.
Averting such talk remains within their power.
On the positive side, their defensive wobbles seem to have eased. Liverpool are the only other top flight side to prevent Chelsea from scoring this season and their other four Premier League opponents all conceded at least three.
And while new signing Edinson Cavani and record signing Paul Pogba were peripheral figures against Chelsea after being introduced as second-half substitutes, Solskjaer is confident of getting more from both of them.
“Edi has been out and needs game time to get his sharpness,” he said. “He wasn’t far away with a nice little flick at the near post and has already been a great influence on the training ground. I am sure he is going to give us lots.
“As for Paul, he has made a positive impact for us in three games as substitute over the last week. Don’t forget he had coronavirus. He is coming along.”