For Manchester United perhaps it was a reality check, a reminder of their various imperfections and how tough it can be at the elite level of European football. Ole Gunnar Solskjær has passed every other test with distinction. Not here, though. Outscored, outpassed and outsung – their night culminated with a red card for Paul Pogba and it will need something remarkable if they can save themselves in the return leg at Parc des Princes.
In reality, who can really see them pulling off that kind of feat of escapology on the evidence of this tie? Paris Saint-Germain took a while to realise they were the superior side but once they seized control, it must have been startling for Solskjær to see the way his team lapsed into bad habits. If anything, PSG had enough chances to win even more convincingly, whereas it was difficult to remember a single moment when Gianluigi Buffon was seriously endangered. To describe United’s performance as six out of 10 would be generous.
Instead it was the first time in United’s long history of European competitions, going back to the 1956-57 season under Matt Busby, that they have lost a home game by more than one goal. Solskjær sounded confident they will put in a much-improved performance when the sides renew acquaintances on 6 March. The same might apply to PSG bearing in mind Thomas Tuchel was visibly aggrieved by his team’s first-half display.
That, perhaps, is the scariest thought for the side who finished with 10 men: PSG, with 103 goals in 35 matches this season, can be even more dangerous at their own place, with the backing of their vociferous supporters.
The goals arrived in a seven-minute spell during a second half when Kylian Mbappé delivered the kind of performance that was beyond Marcus Rashford, one of several disappointing performers for the home team, and Ángel Di María reminded Old Trafford why there was once a time when United valued him highly enough to make him the club’s record signing.