Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was pleased with Manchester United’s response to crashing out of the Champions League as his players fought for a point against Manchester City in a forgettable derby draw.
After dreadful defending played a key role in a costly defeat at RB Leipzig that saw them slip into the Europa League, United’s players showed the kind of focus and organisation that had been lacking in Germany.
They looked solid but lacked a prolonged attacking threat in a drab 0-0 draw against City at an empty Old Trafford, where the video assistant referee overturned a second-half penalty as Marcus Rashford had strayed offside before being fouled by Kyle Walker.
Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne had chances for City but they too lacked a cutting edge in a match that Solskjaer took positives from.
“Well, of course it was a big blow during the week so the way they’ve recovered, the way they’ve worked, how ready they were for the game, I was very, very pleased with it,” the United boss said. “Exceptional attitude.
“Of course we had some moments where we had to defend, especially second half, there were times they really pegged us back.
“But we stuck at it, defended really well, so attitude-wise, mental recovery they’ve done brilliant.
United won three of their four meetings with City last season, but Solskjaer said this was “the best performance we have had” against Pep Guardiola’s side during his time in charge.
“Possession on the ball, control (was better),” the Norwegian said comparing Saturday to previous meetings. “Of course I think last year at the Etihad we could have blown them away from the 10th to the 25th minute. We could have scored four goals.
“Some unbelievable counter-attacking football, but we had about 30 per cent possession and that second half we were hanging on.
“You felt there was less moments to hang on today and we had more of the ball.
“Maybe that’s because they had more respect for us as well. I don’t know, but I’d like to think we’ve developed that side of it.
“And then today we just didn’t have enough to get those counter-attacks that we have.”
Saturday marked City’s sixth successive match in all competitions without conceding, but their lack of attacking impetus against porous United raised eyebrows in a derby that failed to catch light.
Guardiola said: “I don’t know what the feeling was from home but here we know we can go through more intensity.
“Yeah, I would have loved to have more chances, but we had chances with Gabriel (Jesus), Raheem (Sterling) and especially (Riyad) Mahrez in the first half.
“They had one corner in the first half and a late one from (Bruno) Fernandes, so we have to build from here.
“It’s a good point. It’s a point and I would love to win but it’s OK. It’s Old Trafford.
“It’s a tough, tough opponent, they press, they are so fast up front. Yeah, it’s Man United.”