Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has, in his reaction to the 5-0 defeat to Liverpool during the post-match briefing, explained what went wrong.
The boss spoke to MUTV, Sky Sports and at his press conference after the final whistle at Old Trafford and, although thanking the fans for staying with his side in the most trying of circumstances, he admitted the performance simply was not good enough.
The Merseysiders were 4-0 up at half-time, through goals by Naby Keita, Diogo Jota and two for Mohamed Salah, and Salah completed his hat-trick before Paul Pogba was sent off after VAR decided his foul on Keita was worthy of a red card.
Ole described today as a dark day.
“It’s not easy to say something apart from it’s the darkest day I’ve had leading these players and we weren’t good enough, individually and as a team. You can’t give a team like Liverpool those chances, unfortunately we did. The whole performance wasn’t good enough, that’s for sure. We’ve created openings, they’ve had chances and they’ve been clinical. We didn’t take our chances early on and the third goal is the one that decided the game.”
Sol acknowledged that United had a sloppy start.
“Early on, I felt we started sloppy and maybe a bit not confident enough. Not trusting ourselves. We gave the ball away, we kicked it out the first three or four minutes. Then we get the big massive opening, good attack, one-on-one with the keeper. We don’t take it and they then score with their first and second chance and at 2-0 down you have to go for it. You have to, we can’t lay down and keep it down to 2-0. We had chances, they had chances. They took theirs, we didn’t.”
Solksjaer identified loopholes in the team’s tactical approach.
“The coaching staff are very, very good. Brilliant. I choose the way we approach the game and, today, we weren’t clinical enough going forward. There were spaces for both teams and, when you give good players spaces, they score. You know it’s a good question [why not play on the break?] I can say anything but we’re at home, playing against Liverpool. They’ve come here over the last two-and-a-half years and we had a similar approach to go high press and, today, they scored on their chances early on. They hadn’t done that before. I think Manchester United should always try, at home, to go and stamp our authority on the game, like I said before.”
And identified when it became damage limitation.
“4-0. That fourth goal is the one. To go in at half-time, having to score more than one every 15 minutes and I know these boys are capable of it, but the fourth, in extra time in the first half, thinking we can get to half-time to organise everyone but the fourth was probably game over.
Ole admitted this is hard to take.
“You know, you can look back at last season and we lose a big one to Spurs, 6-1, but this is worse. The opposition, as well, make it much worse for me as a Manchester lad. And it’s I’ve just got to say we have to really get over this as quickly as we can and move on. You’re not a robot, of course. I’m devastated and I’m as low as I’ve ever been when I’ve been at this fantastic football club. We’ve had dark days here before and we’ve always bounced back. I will always bounce back, no matter what the situation is now. What can you do about it? That’s the way I’ve got to look at it.”
Solksjaer commended the loyal support of fans.
“They’re brilliant. They could have turned on the team but they don’t, they never do. Of course, they’re edgy and they’re disappointed but they stayed until the end to support them, which is fantastic. We have to thank them for that. Human nature, if you’re angry you might have a go but they always back the players. They always back the team.”
Ole spoke on what to do next to improve the team’s performance.
“I’ve come too far. We’ve come too far as a group. We’re too close to give up now. That’s going to be a difficult one [lifting everyone]. I understand human nature and the players are going to be low. I’ll just look into their eyes and the character of them. I know loads of characters are there. I know we’re rock bottom and can’t feel any worse than this so let’s see where we take it. The only way I know how to approach life is to wake up tomorrow morning and look forward, of course evaluate what has gone on, and do my very, very best to come through difficult times.”