Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has attracted the ire of Manchester United fans and the ridicule of rivals after saying he was pleased to see Manchester City field their strongest team to beat his side 3-1 at Old Trafford.
Goals from Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez, plus an Andreas Pereira own goal, left United with a mountain to climb in their Carabao Cup semi-final.
Pep Guardiola’s side started without any of Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, David Silva or Ederson at Old Trafford while the injured Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane remain out of action.
Despite that, Solskjaer asserted that his team are "going places", with Guardiola's team selection testament to that.
“You know, when you play Man City in the Carabao Cup and they put their strongest team out, you know you’ve gone places,” Solskjaer told BBC Sport.
“It means they respect us, and teams start to respect Man United coming here.
“So, I didn’t take that too badly, you know? I took it as a compliment that they came out with their best players.”
With Solskjaer previously all too keen to point to his first-hand experience of Manchester United glory under Sir Alex Ferguson, the interview left many United fans baffled and rivals on social media revelling in the club’s demise in recent years.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on MOTD: ‘When you play Man City in the Carabao Cup and they put their strongest team out, you know you've gone places because that means they respect us.’— Daniel Taylor (@DTathletic) January 12, 2020
A) not even true, no Aguero, Bravo in goal etc
B) uproar if David Moyes had said this as MUFC manager
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “When you play against Man City in the Carabao Cup, and they put out their strongest team, you know you’re going places...”— Devils of United 🔰 (@DevilsOfUnited) January 12, 2020
This is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. They didn’t even have Aguero, Ederson, Jesus, Silva. 🤦♂️ pic.twitter.com/kKme51ZnnF
When you play Man City in a Carabao cup tie and they put their strongest team out you know you're going places because they respect us = Solskjaer— Mark Goldbridge (@markgoldbridge) January 12, 2020
It's a Semi Final
It's a Derby
It's at OT
Aguero and Jesus were on the bench
He's worrying at times
United nevertheless swept to a 4-0 victory over Norwich on Saturday, with Marcus Rashford scoring twice on his 200th appearance for the club before Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood added gloss to the scoreline.
Solskjaer was asked if it felt like a case of "one step forward, two steps back" for United as his side struggle for consistency in their performances or results.
“Yeah, the performance for 20 minutes of the first half [against Man City] wasn’t the best, but I think we reacted today [and showed] that we can bounce back,” Solskjaer added.
“We’re taking more than two or three steps forward before the one step back, because behind the scenes, we know that we’re doing some good work.”
Norwich started the weekend bottom of the Premier League, with fans also quick to point out that a dominant win over a 20th-placed team was once par for the course at Old Trafford.