Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admits Manchester United were missing “magic” as their Premier League title bid was stunted by a shock home defeat to Sheffield United.
The Red Devils knew victory over the rock-bottom Blades would lift them above arch-rivals Manchester City and back to the top of the table.
Collective lines were fluffed at Old Trafford, with Chris Wilder’s visitors returning to Yorkshire with a stunning 2-1 success.
Solskjaer’s hosts were well short of their best, with a lack of concentration in defence and the absence of attacking spark holding them back.
They are not accusations that have been levelled at the Red Devils over recent weeks, as a welcome return to form has been taken in, but a serious wobble was endured against the Blades.
Solskjaer concedes as much, with United unable to conjure up the match-winning heroics that have been digging them out of holes on a regular basis this season.
“We were not lacking inspiration. That magic. That was missing. That little bit extra,” the Red Devils boss told reporters when reflecting on an untimely setback.
“There wasn’t the space to run into, they defended well and fair play to them, take nothing away from them. We didn’t have the right ideas or solutions. They weren’t there. The performance-level wasn’t there, the tempo wasn’t there, the quality wasn’t there.
“There were spaces we didn’t use and chances we could have made more of in the first half but, when you’re 1-0 down, you’re always chasing the game. They dropped deep and defended really well.
“I have to be fair enough to say they defended very well and we didn’t have the solutions to open them up.”
United are not the first heavyweight outfit to suffer a coupon-busting defeat in 2020-21, with the playing field levelling out in another coronavirus-impacted campaign, and Solskjaer says he will not be reading too much into one reversal as he readies his troops for a trip to Arsenal on Saturday.
The Norwegian added: “I just think it’s this kind of season, we’ve been terrific, our consistency has been absolutely top and we’ve won narrow games like this one so many times.
“When it doesn’t happen, we’re disappointed, of course we are, because we know we can play better. But I don’t have time for a big, long inquest. We need to get over it and go again.”