Manchester United’s demoralising defeat against Manchester City in their League Cup semifinal laid bare their desperate need for reinforcements if they are to salvage anything from their stuttering season.
United conceded three first-half goals in a match at Old Trafford for the first time since May 1997 on Tuesday in their chastening 3-1 first-leg loss against Pep Guardiola’s men.
Bernardo Silva’s wonder strike, Riyad Mahrez’s cool finish and an own goal from Andreas Pereira put City well on course for a third straight final before Marcus Rashford gave the hosts faint hope for the second leg on January 29.
The defeat was another stark reminder that United are light years behind the standards set by Premier League pacesetters Liverpool and defending champions City.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said there would be no easy solutions as United attempt to claw their way back to the top of English football.
“I’ve said before it is not going to be a quick fix and the two teams you are talking about are probably two of the best teams in the world,” he said.
“That’s the task we have ahead of us, it’s something that we’ve started. You can see we are still a way off but we’ve started something that needed doing.”
The problem is that the shoots of recovery are hard to decipher, with United short of technical quality and fight against City.
United have had some impressive performances this season – including a 2-1 victory at City in the league last month, wins against Chelsea and Spurs and a draw at home against Liverpool.
But they have stumbled badly against sides they would expect to beat, losing to Watford, Bournemouth, Newcastle and West Ham, and face a tough battle to qualify for next season’s Champions League.