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'He has played really well' - Solskjaer defends Fred decision after costly red card

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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after the match. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after the match. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after the match. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted considered taking midfielder Fred off at half-time, yet his decision to leave him on the field backfired spectacularly as he was sent off in a damaging Champions League defeat at Old Trafford.

Fred looked certain to be dismissed as he appeared to push his head in the direction of Leandro Paredes’ midway through the first half, but the referee inexplicably opted to hand him a yellow card.

With the official likely to have been made aware that he made a mistake with that decision, he didn't need a second invitation to send Fred off as he lunged into a 70th-minute challenge, with PSG going on to win with something to spare.

Having kicked off Group H with a 2-1 win in the French capital and 5-0 shellacking of RB Leipzig, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side knew they would go through to the round of 16 if they avoided defeat on Wednesday.

United looked well placed to secure that vital point after Marcus Rashford cancelled out Neymar’s early stunner, but Marquinhos and Neymar goals either side of Fred’s belated sending off saw PSG victors at Old Trafford.

Solskjaer admitted he considered taking Fred off at half-time in an interview with BT Sport and that decision came back to haunt him in alarming fashion.

"Fred has played really well. We spoke about staying calm and on your feet. The second yellow card was nowhere near a foul. Ander (Herrera) knows that," said the United manager.

"Fred shouldn't put his head towards him [in the first half]. I don't think he touched him. He was a bit lucky to stay on."

Former Republic of Ireland striker Niall Quinn believes Solskjaer made a huge mistake for failing to take Fred off at half-time, as he suggested his fortunate at escaping a red card for an apparent first-half head-butt should have led to his substitution.

When asked by Virgin Media Sport host Tommy Martin whether Solskjaer will get criticised for his decision to leave Fred on the field, Quinn responded: "Absolutely loads and deserved.

"At the very least, he must have addressed it at half-time. Can I trust you? The world and his mother knew he was walking a tightrope, so the best thing to do was get him off.

"He is wrong to even trust him. He should have whipped him off and he should have an assistant who takes him to one side and say look what will happen to you if he gets sent off. That's what's happened."

An injury to Marcus Rashford added to Solskjaer's woes, with defender Harry Maguire admitting it was a disappointing evening.

"We wanted to win the game, win the group. Football is a game of fine margins," stated the England centre-back.

"We had better chances. Their two goals are scrappy goals - ricochet and pinball around the box. I feel we deserved something.

"You've got to take your chances and not give away soft goals. We're still in control of going through to the knockout stages."

The result means the top three in Group H are all level on nine points heading into the final fixtures, with the Red Devils knowing a point in Leipzig will see them reach the last 16.

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