LONDON • Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted his side produced their best performance of his time in charge against Manchester City even though an uninspiring 0-0 draw at Old Trafford did little for their chances of winning the Premier League.
After crashing out of the Champions League at the group stage in midweek, Saturday’s draw at least saved the Norwegian from another defeat that would have brought more scrutiny of his position.
A share of the spoils also kept eighth-placed United one point and one spot better off than their local rivals (19) before yesterday’s matches. But there was little to suggest either side will fight their way into the title race.
Other than the video assistant referee chalking off a penalty that was awarded for a second-half foul by Kyle Walker on Marcus Rashford, who was deemed to be offside, it was a game that saw precious little action at both ends.
United beat City three times last season, including a league double, but Solskjaer pointed to the smash and grab nature of those victories as Pep Guardiola’s men were easily undone on the counter-attack.
With both sides seemingly more intent on not losing than winning – there were just two shots on target by either team – pundits unanimously felt it was a drab affair, but Solskjaer disagreed.
“In my time against City, that’s the best performance we’ve had. Not the best result, but the best performance,” he said. “We beat them last season but those were different games, we counter-attacked.
“Today was the most we’ve been in the game, we kept them away from our box more. With the ball, we didn’t create as much as we wanted to.
“They probably had the bigger moments in open play, we had a few moments in corners. Overall, a draw, everyone should be happy with that.”
However, the Red Devils have now won just one of their opening six home league games and look set for another campaign where a top-four finish rather than a title tilt will be the target.
They have also failed to score in three home league games this season, one more than in the whole of the 2019-20 campaign, leading former United captain Roy Keane to hit out at the lack of passion on the pitch.
The game was really poor. Looking at the teams, they have to show the desire to win the game. I’ve never seen so many hugs and chats after the game… I don’t get it. Everyone wants to be pals.
“The game was really poor. Looking at the teams, they have to show the desire to win the game,” the pundit told Sky Sports.
“We got two bookings in a derby. I’ve never seen so many hugs and chats after the game. I’m scratching my head. I’m really frustrated.
“At the end, the staff are smiling and hugging, the players are chatting. Just get down the tunnel. I don’t get it. Everyone wants to be pals.”
Gary Neville, his former United teammate, agreed, adding: “There was no intent, whether on the pitch or from the managers to win the match.
“That was really poor, and we shouldn’t accept that.”
Despite the bore draw, City went home happier as Guardiola felt it was a point gained, rather than two points dropped.
While they matched a club record after a sixth consecutive clean sheet, the visitors have now failed to score in two straight away league games for the first time since January 2017.
But Guardiola admitted he had deliberately played it conservative after being stung last term.
“Take a look last season how they beat us,” the Spaniard said. “The quality of this team is they can play when you let them run.
“The important thing is we were so solid, we didn’t concede and on average had more chances. The game was tight, respect from both sides, and a good point for us.”
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS