Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted that Manchester United must look at themselves in the mirror after a humbling defeat to Crystal Palace in their first game of the new season.
Having ended the Norwegian’s first full season in the hotseat with three cup semi-finals and a third-placed Premier League finish, the 2020/21 campaign got off to an alarming start at an empty Old Trafford.
United’s response to Andros Townsend’s early opener was poor, with the familiar face of Wilfried Zaha compounding matters after video assistant referee Jon Moss adjudged David De Gea to be off his line when saving Jordan Ayew’s penalty.
Zaha fired home that retaken spot-kick and the former United player impressively wrapped up a 3-1 victory at Old Trafford, where debutant Donny van de Beek had temporarily reduced the deficit.
“Yeah, you can see we’re short and they deserved the points,” Solskjaer said. “They were sharper than us in the challenges, tackles.
“We started off slowly and that had a knock-on effect for the rest of the game when they got the first goal.
“We had a long season last season and we didn’t finish until August 16, and we’ve not had enough preparation time to be sharper.
“Of course we’ve worked hard with the ones who have been here, there’s been a few players that have been away on internationals.
“But Roy (Hodgson) said they had four friendlies and this is their third competitive game, which is a bit different to our one against Aston Villa last week.”
‘Always looking to improve’
Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward was at Old Trafford for the defeat on a day when he spoke of the need to be “responsible in our use of resources during this most extraordinarily challenging time”.
But the performance only highlighted the need to add to Van de Beek’s acquisition before the October 5 deadline, with fan consternation at the lack of signings palpable online in the absence of attending supporters.
“We can play so much better than today,” Solskjaer said. “If you look at the players we’ve got on the pitch and on the bench and not here today, I think we all need to look within first.
“We need to look at ourselves and we know that we have to perform better.
“Then again, we’re always, always looking to improve if there’s something out there that’s available to the right price.
“We always want to strengthen but I think we can all look ourselves in the mirror today instead.”
Solskjaer did not believe Palace should have been awarded a penalty for handball against Victor Lindelof but understood why it was retaken, even if the United boss felt that decision was “harsh”.
But the 1999 treble hero accepted his side were second best on Saturday evening as the Eagles started a top-flight season with back-to-back wins for the first time in their history.