London: For around 20 minutes, the Champions League glory days really did feel like they were back for Manchester United.
The capacity 74,000 crowd at Old Trafford was in full voice, United were attacking Paris St Germain down the flanks with speed and aggression and their opponents looked shaky.
That feeling lasted until the French champions began to get a grip on the game and by the end of the night, a 2-0 defeat in the last 16, first-leg clash served to highlight the gulf that remains between this United team and the European elite.
“That`s the level we want to get to” United`s caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told reporters. “We`ve been talking about top four (in the Premier League), that`s one thing but we want to be at the top and Man United should be at the top.”
“This is a top, top team we played against. Our players today, are disappointed, of course, but I also think they know we need to step up our level to get to the level we want to get to,” added the Norwegian after suffering his first defeat since taking over 12 games ago in December.
United lost forwards Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard to muscle injuries midway through the match and replacements Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata failed to provide the necessary spark.
PSG had to cope without the injured Neymar and Edison Cavani, two thirds of their attack, yet remained a real threat in the final third with Julian Draxler and Angel Di Maria causing United problems.
That is the kind of strength in depth United will need to build if they are to return to being the kind of force in Europe that they were under Alex Ferguson.