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The Red Devils went 1-0 down to Bernardo Silva in the 17th minute, Riyad Mahrez made it 2-0 to the visitors just after the half-hour mark and City’s total dominance was further established when Andreas Pereira turned into his own net before the break.
In the second half, Marcus Rashford pulled one back for the hosts to give them a lifeline ahead of the second leg at the Etihad Stadium on January 29.
Despite their improvement after the break, Solskjaer did not mince his words when assessing how poorly his side played in the opening 45 minutes. He said:
“The first half, from their first goal, was the worst we’ve played. Pride is a word you speak about at half-time. It’s natural that your head goes down, but we have to get back into the mentality quicker. It can’t be me at half-time.
“Make sure you win the second half and you’re still in the tie. It’s a difficult task ahead of us. Even though it is a steep mountain to climb we can still climb it. We’ve got a young team. We’re still learning. These experiences will stick. The second half gives me something to believe in.“
United are now without a win in three matches in all competitions.
On Saturday, they are back in Premier League action when they host Norwich City at Old Trafford.
Given the Canaries are bottom of the table, it should be a routine victory for United, but Norwich will have taken heart from the Red Devils’ recent poor form.
Equally, Solskjaer’s squad is ravaged by injury, notably in defence and midfield.
Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo, Axel Tuanzebe, Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay were all absent from the squad that faced City because of fitness issues.