Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admits his side still have a “steep mountain to climb” despite Marcus Rashford’s goal giving them a lifeline in the Carabao Cup semi-final against Manchester City.
The England striker’s 70th-minute goal gave United a lifeline for the second leg having been out-played and out-thought by Pep Guardiola and his side in a first half which brought goals for Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and an own goal from Andreas Pereira.
United won in the league at the Etihad a month ago but on the basis of their performance at Old Trafford – 45 minutes which Solskjaer described as the worst of his reign – they will have to considerably improve if they are to stand a chance of making it to Wembley on March 1.
“Of course it is a difficult task we have in front of us but that second half at least gave us something to hang on to,” he said.
“From the first goal until half-time we just couldn’t cope with the setback, we were running in between, we let them play, our heads dropped, made decisions we shouldn’t do and that needed sorting at half-time and I think second half was a good response.
“From their first goal to half-time was the worst we’ve played, before then it could have gone either way with a goal.
“You come in at half-time with that result pride is the one word you speak about. Make sure you win the second half and you are in the tie.
“Even though it’s a steep mountain to climb but we can still climb it and we just have to look forward.”
Despite their first-half domination, when they completely overwhelmed their hosts, Guardiola is wary of what could happen in three weeks’ time.
City have won the competition for the last two seasons and lost their last League Cup match in October 2016, coincidentally to United.
“We played good in the first half. You cannot expect to come here and score four or five goals in 45 minutes, but 0-3 is good enough,” said the City boss.
“But of course they have pride. They are United. That reaction is normal in front of these people.
“It was a good result for us but I take note about what happened in the second half for the second leg in three weeks.
“This is not three points. It is not done. Last season they lost 0-2 against PSG (Paris St Germain in the Champions League) and then they went to France and qualified.
“Everything can happen in football and I know after what happened in the second half they are a dangerous team. I’ve spoken to the players and told them it’s not over.”