Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Manchester United produced the poorest performance of his reign as Wolves sent them crashing out of the FA Cup on Saturday with a 2-1 quarter-final win.
But United’s interim manager was remarkably upbeat despite his side’s flat performance, saying they had plenty more to fight for as they aim for a top-four finish in the Premier League and look forward to a Champions League last-eight tie against Barcelona.
United were well beaten by an eager Wolves side who scored two goals in the space of six minutes in the second half through Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota, with Marcus Rashford’s injury-time effort a consolation.
Solskjaer had presided over a run of just two defeats in 18 games since replacing Jose Mourinho in December, progressing to the quarter-finals of the Champions League and the FA Cup.
But they now go into the international break with back-to-back defeats after losing to Arsenal last week, with Rashford’s goal their only real chance of the game.
“Today was the poorest performance we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Solskjaer.
“It was a big step backwards. There was a lack of urgency going forwards and a lack of forward passing and a lack of regains.
“We felt too comfortable in possession and we never put their keeper under pressure or their defenders under pressure.”
– Solskjaer upbeat –
But Solskjaer delivered a positive message to fans.
“We’re in a great position in the league, we’ve got the Champions League,” he said.
“You can’t sulk for too long. We’ve got so much to play for. Man United in April and May always find their form. We can’t wait for the challenge when Barcelona come.”
Wolves head coach Nuno Espirito Santo was delighted after his side reached the club’s first FA Cup semi-final for 21 years.
“It means a lot of course. The FA Cup is the oldest competition and we played well,” he said.
“We achieved it with the amazing support of our fans believing in us and the noise was fantastic.
“When we achieved it, we achieved it together. Now we have to prepare for the next one.”
Wolves had the best chance of the first half, two minutes before the break. Ruben Neves sent Jota galloping clear for a one-on-one with Sergio Romero, but the United goalkeeper beat his curling shot away.
After the break Romero kept United in the game with two superb saves to deny a bullet header from Jimenez and a rising chip from Joao Moutinho as Wolves got on top.
Wolves scored the goal they had been threatening in the 70th minute.
Jimenez was forced backwards with his back to goal after being crowded out following a superb run by Moutinho, who breezed through three challenges cutting in from the left.
But the Mexican swivelled 180 degrees after getting a lucky bounce off Paul Pogba and drilled a low shot past Romero.
Six minutes later Wolves put the tie beyond United when Neves sent Jota racing clear on the counter and the Portuguese left Luke Shaw in a heap before firing an unstoppable left-foot drive inside Romero’s near post.
Referee Martin Atkinson showed United defender Victor Lindelof a red card for lunging in on Jota but it was overturned by VAR.
Rashford pulled one back with a shot on the turn in the fifth minute of the five added one, but it was too little, too late.