Ole Gunnar Solskjaer called the chastening loss to Manchester City “a big step backwards” as Manchester United’s lifeless derby defeat heaped more pressure on the under-fire manager.
The 186th Manchester derby saw the Red Devils return to Old Trafford for the first time since their 5-0 Premier League humiliation at the hands of Liverpool a fortnight ago.
United responded with a 3-0 victory at Tottenham and Tuesday’s last-gasp 2-2 Champions League draw at Atalanta, but the reigning champions brought them back down to earth with a bump.
Only some superb David De Gea saves prevented City adding to Eric Bailly’s own goal and Bernardo Silva’s effort in a one-sided first half that ended with boos from a number of the Old Trafford faithful.
Pep Guardiola’s men did not add any more goals but the 2-0 scoreline flattered United, whose manager Solskjaer faces renewed scrutiny and pressure heading into the international break.
“Of course it’s very disappointing,” the 1999 treble hero said. “Of course it feels like after last week that we have made a step or two forward. Results-wise, it’s a big step backwards.
“Probably, for me, it’s a way of losing that we don’t like. When you lose a game against a good team you want to see a better Man United team than that.
“Of course when you concede the first goal as early as you do in an unfortunate way, it makes the game a lot more difficult.
“We needed to be more front foot, aggressive up there, but then of course we’re playing against a very good team that made it hard for us to do that.
“Then we had the ball, they pressed us really well, we couldn’t get the angles that we knew we had to get and the quality that we knew we had to get.
“So, we never got to the level we need to be at to win against good teams.”
Solskjaer was under intense external pressure following the loss to Liverpool but retained the backing of the Old Trafford hierarchy – support which will be keenly tested again in the coming days.
Asked if he is still confident he can turn this around and get United back to where they should be, the United boss said: “Yeah, definitely and you’re right (about) back to where we should be.
“For me, it is about back to what we were starting to look like.
“We started to look like a proper team, we started to look on the front foot, a team that I like to see.
“Then we’ve had two or three or four weeks now, a disappointing spell.
“Yeah, the result against Tottenham, the performance, was good but it’s not what we want to look like, to put it that way.
“We want to be on the front foot, we want to be more aggressive, of course.
“But unfortunately we’ve had to try to get a few results. We got a couple of good results, Atalanta and Tottenham, and today was a big step back.”
United face three successive away games after the international break, with Premier League matches at Watford and Chelsea either side of the Champions League trip to Villarreal.
“We’re human beings, players are human beings and when you lose a game of football there’s no better remedy than winning a game,” Solskjaer added. “Getting your confidence by winning a game.
“Hopefully the ones that go away do that, do well and for us it’s all about Watford.
“We have to come out against Watford like a proper hurt animal. We’ve got to get back to what we know we can be.
“That’s your only way to approach this and attack this situation.
“The short answer is I think (the international break) has come at a good time for us now because as a group we’ve had a difficult spell, we’ve come through it but this was a big step backwards.”