January 2021

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Rob DawsonCorrespondent

MANCHESTER, England — Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said for the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup against Manchester City that there could be no excuse if Manchester United failed to reach the first final of his reign, and he’s right. A 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford (rebroadcast on ESPN+, USA only) will be seen as a missed opportunity for the Norwegian, who knows how important it is to win his first trophy as coach. The wait will continue.

United started with a full complement of players and in such a form that they reached the top of the Premier League table. The city was robbed of key players, including goalkeeper Ederson and an established center forward, but Pep Guardiola’s side reached their fourth consecutive Carabao Cup final. It has been 1,533 days since they lost a draw in this league – here against Jose Mourinho United in October 2016.

This is the fourth consecutive semifinal for Solskjaer United, who lost three times last season. He won’t want his team to be an eternal contender, although United’s defeat by City in the Carabao Cup semifinals of a year ago has clearly improved.

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We played against a very good team from Manchester City, they played well, Solskjaer said afterwards. If they play well, you have to play very well to beat them. We just missed him.

We’re getting closer. It’s a much better version of United than a year ago in these half-finished rooms. It’s not psychological [loss of four semifinals]. Sometimes you meet good teams in the semifinals. We’ve scored, so far City is probably the best team in England.

The result cannot be disputed.

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City goalkeeper Zach Steffen had to save a shot from Bruno Fernandez in the eighth minute, but otherwise the American international was at the front of the visitors. Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden missed their shot in the 25th minute. In the second minute Kevin De Bruyne scored an offside trap, and in between Dean Henderson scored a goal against the post.

Even after John Stones City led with his first goal since the 2018 World Cup in the second half, Henderson had to save two free kicks – one of which crashed into the top corner to prevent Riyad Mahrez from scoring and keep United in the game. Fernandinho finished the match seven minutes later with a shot that slid into the corner from 20 meters.

On a chilly evening in Manchester, United had to face reality for a crucial week for their league title, with trips to Burnley and Liverpool.

For City last week was a timely reminder of their quality. Their training field has been closed due to an outbreak of the Coronavirus and their team has been downsized, but they have managed to achieve significant victories at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford in the last four days. Guardiola said this week that he expected the top teams to find more consistency in the second half of the season, and City seems to hit hard at the right time.

Fault! The file name is not specified. Man United had the momentum on their side but was defeated for the fourth time in a row in the semifinals. Getty

The victory was achieved without Ederson, Kyle Walker, Aymeric Laporta, Rodri, Bernardo Silva, Ferran Torres, Gabriel Jesus or Sergio Agüero in the beginning eleven. Among the team’s players, United’s lone striker Ruben Diaz played a major role in defending Steffen, who allowed only two shots on goal in the evening.

The team is ready and it was a great performance, said Guardiola, who dedicated the result to urban legend Colin Bell, who died Tuesday. He slipped a bit in the second half, tired after the Stamford Bridge match, but as a team with that mentality, they can do something amazing. It’s not the Champions League, but reaching the finals four times in a row impresses me.

It’s a matter of consistency. We haven’t really had a preseason yet, so we need some time, but I think we’re done.

United, on the other hand, admitted two failed goals, both of which came from a play-by-play situation.


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Manchester City can score a lot of charities, says Solskjaer. You can take it. Admitting two easy sets is very frustrating. At times like these, it’s not enough.

We haven’t created enough opportunities. They are. We haven’t had any particular finesse in the games lately. We weren’t good enough today.

United are at a crucial moment in their season. A quick comeback against Burnley and Liverpool and that result will be forgotten in a wave of title talks. A few disappointing results and a campaign that looked promising seemed to fall apart.

Next week is a new opportunity for Solskjaer. After the misstep against City, he won’t want to miss another one.

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