Ole Gunnar Solskjaer conceded that there is a “difference in quality” between Manchester United and neighbours Manchester City following Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat.
After last weekend’s humiliating 4-0 loss at Everton, Solskjaer made five changes to the United line-up for the Manchester derby.
The Red Devils delivered a stronger performance this time around, but were left clearly outmanoeuvred by City all over the pitch.
Bernardo Silva put the Citizens in front with a 54th-minute strike before substitute Leroy Sane sealed a 2-0 victory just 12 minutes later.
And Solskjaer conceded that United were simply outclassed on the night, despite being satisfied with the reaction from his players.
“We got a reaction and in the end we were beaten by a better team,” the United boss told Sky Sports.
“But we got a reaction from fans and players and had a go, had efforts – didn’t hit the target too many times but you can see the work rate was there. It wasn’t good enough.
“There is a difference in quality. That is why they are top and we are where we are. They have set the standard. Living in Manchester we cannot be happy with that. It is up to us to close that gap and overtake them.
“Today you can’t say that any of them didn’t run. You could see clearly an intent and focus. We just need to keep working on it.”
The Norwegian explained his pre-match comments, where he suggested City would deploy tactical fouling. This had left Pep Guardiola upset, who denied ever deploying such methods across his entire managerial career.
“I was making a compliment. City want to win it back and by their aggression to win it back there will be fouls,” said Solskjaer.
“You want a team like this. They keep the ball high and are hungry to win it back. They stopped us very well.”
Meanwhile, United keeper David de Gea endured another abysmal display at Old Trafford. The Spaniard looked a shadow of his past self as Silva and Sane made light work of him.
“David made some terrific saves as well. He has high standards,” Solskjaer said on De Gea.
“When we are having a time like this we’ve just got to stick together, batten the hatches down, don’t do anything rash and keep working.
“We have to come back fighting on Sunday.”
Despite the defeat, United are still just three points outside of the Premier League top-four. As fifth-place Arsenal fell to a 3-1 defeat at Wolves and, therefore, failed to break into the Champions League spots.
Solskjaer’s side will now turn their focus to Sunday’s crucial showdown against Chelsea at Old Trafford. The Blues hold fourth-place heading into the final three games of the season.
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) April 24, 2019