Thomas Tuchel: Chelsea boss admits PSG Champions League defeat to Manchester United left him in 'a dark place'

Watch Chelsea vs Manchester United on Sunday, live on Sky Sports from 4pm; kick-off 4:30pm; Blues are fifth in the Premier League, two points outside the top four and six behind second-placed United; Thomas Tuchel came up against United four times in Champions League as PSG manager

Thomas Tuchel says Bruno Fernandes has been outstanding at Manchester United
Image: Thomas Tuchel says Bruno Fernandes has been outstanding at Manchester United

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel has described Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes as one of the best midfielders in the world and said he tried to sign the Portugal international when he was in charge of Paris Saint-Germain.

Fernandes has been fundamental to a United resurgence that sees them sit second in the Premier League table ahead of their trip to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea on Sunday, live on Sky Sports.

"The impact he has had is indescribable and unbelievable," Tuchel said of 26-year-old Fernandes, who has scored 15 goals and provided 11 assists in the Premier League this season.

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"To come from Portugal, from a competitive team - a big club but not from the strongest league - and step to one of the biggest clubs in the Premier League and the strongest league in Europe... I have nothing but the biggest respect for this guy.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel (AP image)
Image: Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea will host Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday

"It is outstanding. He is one of the best midfielders in the world, and he has a huge, huge impact and to have this as a single person in football, you must be absolutely top level because this is almost impossible.

"My first sporting director in Paris knew him well. We fought hard to bring him to our team. We tried and he went another way. It is bad for us that we have to play against him (on Sunday)."

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Paris Saint-Germain v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League - Round of 16 - Second Leg - Parc des Princes - 6 March 2019
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring his side's third goal of the game during the UEFA Champions League match at the Parc des Princes, Paris, France.
Image: Marcus Rashford's stoppage-time penalty at the Parc des Princes in March 2019 saw Manchester United advance in the Champions League on away goals at PSG's expense

Tuchel has come up against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer five times in just over two years and highlights the Champions League loss to United as one of particular significance, saying it left him in a "dark place".

After a 2-0 victory at Old Trafford in the round-of-16 first leg on February 12, 2019, PSG were left stunned at Parc des Princes three weeks later when they conceded a penalty in stoppage time to suffer a 3-1 defeat and exit the competition on away goals.

Tuchel said: "I can be very honest, after that match I was two days in a very dark place and I can tell you I was not able to speak to anybody and to think about anything else than this defeat.

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"That maybe was the worst defeat that I experienced because it came from nowhere. It was, in a way, in the circumstances that it arrived. I was for two days in a dark place for a coach to be at."

It remains the only time the former Borussia Dortmund head coach has felt that low after a result but he admitted it proved a crucial learning experience.

PSG were able to bounce back and win the Ligue 1 title months later. In the following European campaign, they almost completed the ultimate redemption but lost out to Bayern Munich in the Champions League final last August.

"I didn't experience anything like this ever again or before," Tuchel revealed.

Paris Saint-Germain's German coach Thomas Tuchel arrives to attend the French L1 football match between Montpellier Herault (MHSC) and Paris Saint Germain (PSG) at the Mosson Stadium in Montpellier, southern France, on December 05, 2020. (Photo by Pascal GUYOT / AFP) (Photo by PASCAL GUYOT/AFP via Getty Images)
Image: Tuchel says defeat to Manchester United as PSG boss left him in a 'dark place'

"It was in the circumstances, this game, how we arrived there, the pressure around the club concerning the round of 16, the history before and the result of the first match and the way the second match went with the VAR decision in the last minute.

"It was like it came from absolutely nowhere and that's why this hit was hard to take. But, like I said, I was two days in a dark place but then we gave the players two days off and I think that was the best for everybody.

Thomas Tuchel - AP Images
Image: Tuchel went up against Manchester United four times as PSG boss

"After that, it's like this in sports, it can teach you that you have to stand up and accept that a defeat is sometimes necessary to grow and develop and to ask yourself decisive questions.

"That can hurt and the reward was one year later, it was almost the perfect reward when we arrived in the final and we came a long way for that. It was through adversity and it's often said that it makes you stronger."

Dismissed by PSG in December and appointed by Chelsea a month later, one of Tuchel's main short-term goals is to ensure the Blues are in the Champions League again next season.

Victory over United would reduce the gap between the teams to three points and the experienced coach refused to play down the importance of the fixture.

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Unbeaten in eight games since he replaced Frank Lampard, the German conceded like most in the industry, he does not take defeats well.

Tuchel added: "Am I a good loser? So, so. Maybe not so much, but show me a good loser on this level and winning drives us.

"Winning drives this club and winning drives this dressing room, so we are all competitors and we are all out there to win and this is the challenge.

"Everything else in the first moment is hard to accept. Sometimes easier, sometimes worse but I would love to turn it around.

"We love the competition and we love to win and we love a good fight for it and this is what we will hopefully get on Sunday."

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