Solskjaer’s honeymoon comes to an end; D’Arcy on the French rugby crisis

Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

PSG fans light flares ahead of kick-off in their Champions League clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

PSG fans light flares ahead of kick-off in their Champions League clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images

And so the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer honeymoon period comes to an end. And with a bang, at that. Two quickfire goals in the second from Paris Saint-Germain’s Presnel Kimpembe and Kylian Mbappé tore the heart out of Manchester United at Old Trafford last night and ensured that the French side will take a 2-0 lead to the Parc des Princes for the second leg on March 6th. United can probably feel somewhat aggrieved that Kimpembe was even on the pitch when he sidefooted home Angel Di Maria’s corner after the full-back received an early yellow card and was then let off two questionable fouls later in the first half but there can be no doubt about the gulf in class between the two sides. Afterwards Solskjaer called it “a reality check” for United and, with Chelsea on the way in the FA Cup on Monday followed by Liverpool in the league on Sunday week, it’s a reality United would want to get to grips with. As always Mary Hannigan was on TV watch and this morning she writes that there was quite a difference between the RTÉ panel and the BT Sport panel which included Paul “I could have done the job Ole has done” Ince. “Over on RTÉ, Damien Duff was scoffing at the notion that anybody at all could have applied such a Midas-y touch as Ole, reckoning that if the job was that easy he and Darragh Maloney would have been appointed gaffer and assistant gaffer,” she writes. In the night’s other match Porto pulled back a late away goal to leave Rome with just a 2-1 loss while this evening Tottenham Hotspur welcome Borussia Dortmund to Wembley while Real Madrid meet Ajax in Amsterdam. This will be Spurs’ 22nd game in 79 days and will be a major ask for a squad that is already looking depleted.

Moving on to rugby and Gordon D’Arcy writes in his column this morning that France used to be the beating heart of rugby union and, with the team in disarray, we are all the poorer for it. Two losses in two Six Nations games – most recently a drubbing against England in Twickenham – has seen French rugby go into full crisis mode with little or no light at the end of the tunnel. D’Arcy writes that they need an Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sort of figure to lift the doom and gloom around the place but even that seems to be a fanciful notion. “If Brunel remains the centrepiece of this French team, I struggle to see how they will avoid sinking further down the world rankings,” he writes. In the Ireland camp there is some good news as Garry Ringrose looks set to be fit to face Italy at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday week as he continues to recover from a hamstring strain suffered against England. “It has responded to well to rehab. It was just a strain of the hamstring, not something I would have done before, a soft tissue injury. I was cautious in getting it rehabbed. Over the last 10 days, it has responded really well,” he said yesterday.

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