Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Manchester United had taken a ‘big step backwards’ as they crashed out of the FA Cup at Wolves on Saturday night.
Second-half goals from Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota clinched a famous 2-1 win to put Wolves into the semis for the first time in 21 years at a jubilant Molineux.
But it inflicted a second defeat in a row on Solskjaer whose bubble is in danger of bursting after United’s best chance of a lifting a trophy under him this season disappeared.
‘It was a big step backwards,’ said the 46-year-old Norwegian, who suffered his first Premier League defeat at Arsenal last weekend.
‘That’s the poorest performance since I’ve come here. We know that we played well against Arsenal last week and didn’t get what we deserved, but we got what we deserved today.
‘The tempo wasn’t high enough and we played into their hands. We never managed to put their keeper or defenders under pressure. There wasn’t enough quality.’ Asked if the positive impact of his arrival three months ago might be wearing off, Solskjaer replied: ‘I think it’s something natural. You can’t perform to the top level every time.
‘It was still against a good team, don’t forget that. Don’t take anything away from Wolves’ performance, even though we underperformed.
‘We’re very disappointing tonight that we’re not in the semis. I told the players the truth but, of course, you can’t sit down and sulk too long. Everyone is disappointed but we have to move forward.’
Solskjaer admitted the international break might have come at a good time for United, but vowed that his players would be ready to challenge for a top-four place in the Premier League and face Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals when they come back.
‘The international break sometimes comes in handy,’ he said. ‘We would have loved to play again and put it right, but hopefully some of them will have good experiences with the national team and be ready to push again.
‘We’re ready to go again after internationals, we’ve got so much to play for. We’re in a great position in the league and in Champions League. Man United always find their good form in April and May.
‘We can’t wait for the challenge for third and, of course, the big night when Barcelona come. There are so many highlights to look forward to.
‘Don’t worry about the players’ attitude. When they come back they’ll give it a good go.’
Marcus Rashford pulled a goal back in injury-time but it could have been even worse for United after Victor Lindelof was sent off for a challenge on Jota only to see referee Martin Atkinson’s red card decision downgraded to a yellow following a VAR review.
Solskjaer claimed he did not see the incident, and Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo said:
‘If VAR saw it and the decision was made on what they saw then well done.
‘We will speak a lot about VAR in the future and what I want is it to be clear to everyone. I don’t what to spend too much time talking about VAR, the game is more important.’
The Portuguese coach was understandably more interested in talking about a deserved victory, and the ecstatic reaction of the Wolves fans who savored a memorable night.
‘The atmosphere was amazing, fantastic,’ he added. ‘What pleases me more is as I walk down the stands people say that they saw the 50s and 60s, and to give them this joy and see the fans going out of the stadium with a smile – because of the beer as well, of course.
‘It means a lot, of course. The FA Cup the oldest competition there is. We did it together.’