The devastating 3-1 loss to Manchester United last March in the UEFA Champions League is still fresh in the minds of Paris Saint-Germain supporters. It was the second time in the Qatar Sports Investments era that PSG crashed out in the knockout stage of the tournament in humiliating fashion and following each loss, we are left to wonder how it’s possible that a team so talented could capitulate so spectacularly when they were so heavily favored to advance.
Thomas Tuchel was the manager for only one of those losses—to the Red Devils last March—and after the final whistle, the German’s comments were mostly about gifting Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s squad two goals and that he thought his team “played with a lot of quality” according to the official PSG website. For me, I never felt like Tuchel explained how a loss like this could even happen. Manchester United was missing several of their starters and when you look at the state of the club now, it’s even more head-scratching how this loss could have even happened. Well, we may finally have an answer.
On Monday, beIN Sports released a fascinating interview with Tuchel where he talked about how he got into coaching, his style, the aftermath of the Manchester United loss, and of course, Neymar Jr. For this article, we’ll just focus on his comments about that forgettable night in Paris last March. To start, Tuchel is asked how he felt after the match and what happened afterward.
?️ Thomas Tuchel sur l'élimination face à Manchester United : "C'était comme avoir un accident de voiture. Passer au vert et se faire percuter de plein fouet !"
— beIN SPORTS (@beinsports_FR) October 7, 2019
“I was three days in a dark place. A really dark place like never before because I knew what we worked for,” Tuchel said. “I knew how hard it was to build this, to reach this point with this team and with the club.”
“…it was really, really, really a lot of work to achieve that kind of level to beat Liverpool, to win in Belgrade against Red Star, and to go to Manchester United and be the first French team to win there and have this kind of performance and crash out in the second leg, it felt like a car accident, like running through the green lights and get hit from the side,” Tuchel continued.
Tuchel went on to talk about how the loss in the Champions League impacted his team towards the end of the season where they lost to Stade de Reims, Montpellier HSC, and Stade Rennais in the Coupe de France final.
“Suddenly, a lot of injuries. Suddenly, the mood changed in the dressing room, the mood outside changed, the criticism,” Tuchel said. “The players were not immune from all of this and it was very very hard to finish the season with the same spirit,” he continued. “It was not possible. The biggest example was the Coupe de France final where we were leading 2-0 and it was a clear victory but we lose it in the end. It was a bitter taste of the season in which we invested so much.”
The former Borussia Dortmund manager even went on to say that he has trained himself not to read anything about the club but that he can’t help but feel the pressure and criticism. After the loss to United, Tuchel said: “it was immense.”
While he was just as devastated as supporters, it doesn’t exactly explain how this loss happened. Coming into the night, PSG was better in every way possible. I believe I even jokingly predicted an 8-0 win because the lineups were so laughably one-sided. In the interview, Tuchel looks back and recalls the days leading up to the match and a bad feeling he had.
“When I drove to the stadium with my assistant coach before the second leg I told him, and I felt it before on the training ground, ‘we were trying too hard to be good,'” Tuchel said. “I tell you, there is a pressure out there,” Tuchel continued. “I can feel it. I have no recipe how but I can tell you we have to sneak through and if we sneak through this once, maybe it opens up a gate that is so big that it seems to be easy after that.”
The interviewer presses Tuchel on his statement about how he could feel that this game would be difficult.
“You could feel it in the dressing room,” Tuchel said. “For my players, they wanted to show to everyone that it is different and this year is the year,” Tuchel continued. “It was what I felt in training, a bit too much. A bit too much effort. A bit too much concentration. All the stuff you normally like as a coach you could feel like we’re overdoing it.”
This definitely isn’t the feeling you want before a big Champions League game but Tuchel went on to explain how he tried to be positive with the players despite pleading in his mind for PSG to advance by any means necessary.
“In the back of my mind, I was thinking, ‘Let’s just do this. Please. Somehow. I don’t want to know how but just please, sneak through,'” Tuchel said.
The comments from Tuchel are extremely eye-opening on so many levels and it’s refreshing to hear a manager of one of the top club’s in Europe be so honest with his assessment of his team’s shortcomings.
One positive to take away is that Tuchel knows exactly what to look for from his team this season as they prepare to once again qualify for the knockout stage. PSG currently sit at the top of Group A and have been without Neymar for both of their Champions League matches so far. Barring any major setbacks, PSG should advance comfortably and hopefully, this time the club will be a little more relaxed and play the beautiful football we know they’re capable of.
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