Steve McManaman scalded Paris Saint-Germain by saying he ‘expected’ them to collapse against Real Madrid in the Champions League because ‘when they come under pressure, they melt away.’
PSG appeared to be cruising into the Champions League quarter-finals at half-time when they held a 1-0 lead, 2-0 on aggregate, courtesy of Real Madrid target Kylian Mbappe.
But a second-half implosion from the Parisians, which saw Karim Benzema net a 17-minute hat-trick, ended their expensively assembled squad’s hopes in Europe for another season.
Paris Saint-Germain produced an epic collapse to be knocked out of the Champions League
Karim Benzema (right) scored a 17-minute hat-trick to fire Real Madrid into the quarter-finals
Steve McManaman said that PSG always collapse when the pressure takes over the players
PSG dominated for much of the two legs but when it came down to it, Mauricio Pochettino’s side lost their nerve and McManaman was one who was not in the least bit surprised.
‘We expected PSG to unravel, it just wasn’t in this game because they were so far on top at half-time,’ he told BT Sport.
‘PSG do what PSG have always done, when they come under pressure, they absolutely melt away.
‘There was no organisation, no leadership, yet from Real Madrid it was just an incredible, excellent, fantastic night, and another historic evening for this team in white.’
A disappointed Pochettino, who will see his future come under the microscope having failed to deliver the owners’ primary objective, believed his side ‘exposed’ themselves with lapses of concentration.
‘We didn’t manage our emotions well,’ the PSG boss said.
Mauricio Pochettino agreed that his star-studded team did collapse on Wednesday night
‘We left ourselves exposed. We leave with great pain and disappointment because we didn’t score the goals to reflect our superiority over the two games.’
While credit deserves to go to Benzema and Real Madrid, who were much improved in the second half in front of nearly 60,000 at the Santiago Bernabeu, this is as much a PSG collapse story.
Minds are already being cast back to 2017 when they let up a 4-0 first leg lead to Barcelona, eventually losing 6-1 at the Nou Camp to go out.
They lost their nerve against Man City over two legs last season and PSG have shown enough evidence to leave pundits like Rio Ferdinand unsurprised when lightning strikes twice.
‘This isn’t something that’s a surprise for us because we’ve seen it time and time again in the knockout stages of the Champions League,’ the ex-Manchester United defender echoed to BT Sport.
‘This Paris St-Germain team pressed the self-destruct button. They managed to do it for two of the goals today which were preventable, two goals where they’re overplaying and the goalkeeper starts it.’
Benzema dominated the contest as Real Madrid showed their class to reach the last eight
Was it just nerves getting the better of them? Not for Ferdinand.
‘It’s the mentality I think and the culture at the club,’ he added.
‘This isn’t something that is new at Paris Saint-Germain.
‘They’ve got fantastic talent, world-class talent all over the pitch, internationals left right and centre. They can field 22 internationals. But when the mentality is not right on the day and you get into situations like this, sometimes you’ve got to stay in the game. It’s like a boxing match.
‘Sometimes you’ve got to roll with the punches a little bit, stay in the game, you’ve got wily old characters in your team, you’ve got enough experience there to do that, but they never ever manage to be able to do that.’
Ferdinand continued: ‘It’s not just about now, this has happened with previous managers. So it is part of the ingrained culture that is there at Paris Saint-Germain.
Rio Ferdinand says that it is in PSG’s DNA to throw big leads away in the Champions League
‘It’s in their DNA to capitulate like this, because we’ve seen it year in, year out, in the knockout stages. You wouldn’t want to be at the club when people say, “that’s not a surprise”. We’re drawing breath here, we’re gasping at the way it’s unfolded. You wouldn’t want to be in that changing room.’
Pochettino did take aim at the way his players handled the game, accepting that his side had thrown the quarter-final place away.
‘Qualification was decided in 10 minutes,’ the Argentine said.
‘We were the best team over the two games. Football is about managing match moments well.
‘It’s true that we’ve collapsed a bit. It’s impossible to explain.’