Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made no attempt to disguise the gulf in quality between his team and Manchester City, describing Pep Guardiola’s side as “the best team in the country” after they won 2-0 at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
“They have set the standard in the last two seasons and I don’t know how many points they’ve taken. What Pep Guardiola has done with his players is remarkable and we are so close to it, in the vicinity so we feel it every day,” said the Norwegian.
Solskjaer had demanded his players react to their 4-0 loss to Everton on Sunday and United did begin the match with aggression, battling hard until City went ahead through Bernardo Silva in the 54th minute.
“We got a reaction and in the end we were beaten by a better team. But we got a reaction from fans and players and had a go. You can see the workrate was there, it wasn’t good enough though,” said the United boss.
“The players wanted to show they really care. The first half was positive, we were pleased at the break.
“Unfortunately, we conceded two sloppy goals in the second half that could have been avoided. Everyone can see what City have done over the last few years,” he said.
City strolled to victory in the second half with United flagging as they chased after a stream of precise passes from Guardiola’s side.
“There is a difference in quality. That is why they are top and we are where we are. They have set the standard. Living in Manchester we cannot be happy with that. It is up to us to close that gap and overtake them,” said Solskjaer
“Today you can’t say that any of them didn’t run. You could see clearly an intent and focus. We just need to keep working on it,” he said.
United have lost seven of their last nine games in all competitions, a run of form which contrasts markedly with the positive start to Solskjaer’s reign in December.
A Champions League spot remains within their grasp, however, with United sat in sixth place, three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, who they play on Sunday.
“In the short term, we are still in the race for the top four and we know we must deliver a good performance against Chelsea,” said Solskjaer.