Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has labelled his side’s first-half performance in Tuesday’s League Cup semifinal, first leg defeat their worst display of the season.
Despite starting the game without a recognised striker, holders Man City outclassed United in a 3-1 victory at Old Trafford, scoring all three goals in a 21-minute first half blitz.
The performance led the Norwegian to question his squad’s mental attitude, saying the players needed to learn to spur themselves on when things went against them.
“From their goal until halftime is the worst we’ve played,” Solskjaer told reporters. “From the first goal until halftime we couldn’t cope. We let them play, our heads dropped, we made decisions we shouldn’t and it needed sorting at halftime.
“It’s natural your head goes down when you feel you’re not performing, but we’ve got to get out of it quicker…It can’t be me coming in at halftime, that’s the learning this team (must do).
“We’ve got a young team. I’ve said it a few times but it’s not going to change between every press conference, that statement. I’m still in that phase. It’s a young team and we’re learning and these experiences must stick.”
Solskjaer replaced Jesse Lingard with Nemanja Matic at the break to shore up the midfield and they managed to get a foothold in the match with a Marcus Rashford goal, keeping the tie alive ahead of the second leg later this month.
“The second half was a good response, (but) it’s a steep mountain to climb,” Solskjaer added. “The second half gives me something to believe in because it’s respectable and a good second half.”
Pep Guardiola warned his team to stay on guard of Man United as they have still have powers of recovery for the second leg.
Guardiola remains wary after Solskjaer’s men recovered from losing 0-2 at home to Paris Saint-Germain in last season’s Champions League last 16 to progress.
“It’s a good result, but it is not over because it is United,” Guardiola told Sky Sports. “Last season is a good example against PSG. Hopefully in front of our fans we can make a good game and reach the final.”
Man United have shown their ability to win at the Etihad already this season as they tore City apart on the counter-attack to shock the Premier League champions on home soil just a month ago.
But City restored their recent dominance of this fixture with a third consecutive win at Old Trafford and a fourth in five away derbies since Guardiola took charge.
The Catalan responded to the problems United posed his side last time out by deploying an extra midfielder with both City strikers Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus left on the bench.
Guardiola’s tactical plan worked to perfection as a fluid front four of Silva, Mahrez, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne were too fleet of foot and thought for a United defence without the injured Harry Maguire.