It proved to be a nightmare evening for Jose Mourinho and Chelsea as an extra-time Thiago Silva header saw Paris Saint-Germain knock the Blues out of the Champions League and book their place in the quarter-finals by virtue of the away goals rule after a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge.
Over the two-legged tie, Paris Saint Germain's Marco Verratti emerged as a star performer. Following an excellent display at the Parc des Princes three weeks ago, he was again outstanding against the Blues in London. The youngster was heavily linked with a move to the Premier League over the summer, with Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea reported by the Express to be showing an interest, and his performance here will only have served to heighten his value.
Chelsea's Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas - widely regarded as the Premier League's best midfield pairing - found themselves bamboozled by the Italian's energy in the centre of the park. It is not often the former Benfica and Barca stars are thrown off their game, but against Paris Saint Germain, Verratti simply prevented them from establishing a stranglehold on the game.
Playing on the right side of a three-man central midfield, Verratti dominated for the French outfit. He accumulated 108 touches, just 11 fewer than Javier Pastore and Thiago Motta, who both enjoyed far greater minutes. He oozed confidence when in possession, completing 92% of his attempts to find a team-mate, while fashioning two key passes.
|Team||Touches||Total Passes||Pass Accuracy (%)||Key Passes||Won Tackle||Interceptions||Clearances||Fouls||Mins Played|
|Marco Verratti||Paris SG||108||87||92||2||7||3||1||5||90|
Despite his size - he is just 5ft 5in - he dictated physically, which leads one to suggest that he is more than suited to the rigorous nature of the English game. Having attempted 10 tackles throughout his 81-minute cameo, Verratti emerged victorious on a match-best seven occasions. Meanwhile, he also weighed in with three interceptions and one clearance.
Although his combativeness is an admirable asset, Verratti's eagerness to retrieve possession can prove costly at times, as is now the case for the Italian. Having conceded five fouls in total, he received his third yellow card of the competition. This will see him miss the French outfit's quarter-final clash through suspension.
Nonetheless, for the second time in three weeks, Verratti has proven his pedigree with outstanding performances against Jose Mourinho's Premier League leaders; an impressive feat considering the Stamford Bridge outfit's dominance over the course of the season. If Louis van Gaal had tuned into Sky Sports yesterday evening, he would have undoubtedly shared the same admiration.
Manchester United are in need of a steely central midfielder player, and have been ever since the departure of Roy Keane. While players capable of dominating the game in the centre of the park are incredibly hard to come by, Verratti already looks to be an extremely talented asset. Technically sound and hard as nails, he is exactly the player the Red Devils still require in midfield.
While the player himself has expressed his desire to stay in Paris for 'many years' to come, according to the Express article, the Old Trafford hierarchy should monitor his situation with intent. It's unlikely that Angel Di Maria had anticipated being a Manchester United player this season, the same can be said for Radamel Falcao. Football is football, and under Van Gaal the club's fans are continuing to learn that anything can happen.