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Manchester United played worst half of season against Man City - Solskjaer

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Man City dismantle Man United to take big advantage (1:21)

Manchester City beat rivals Manchester United 3-1 in the first leg at Old Trafford. Watch the Carabao Cup on ESPN+. (1:21)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer blasted Manchester United's worst performance of the season as Manchester City ran riot in the first half of the 3-1 Carabao Cup semifinal first leg win at Old Trafford.

Solskjaer was critical of a dismal 22-minute spell before half-time that saw Pep Guardiola's side score three times. Only Marcus Rashford's second-half consolation kept United in the tie ahead of the second leg at the Etihad Stadium on Jan. 29 (stream live at 2:45 p.m. ET on ESPN+).

"From their goal until half-time is the worst we've played," said Solskjaer. "We couldn't cope with the set back [of the first goal]. We let them play, our heads dropped and made decisions we shouldn't do and it needed sorting at half time.

"Second half was a good response, it's a steep mountain to climb."

Solskjaer is the latest United manager to be charged with bridging the gap with City, who have won the last two Premier League titles, but after a chastening night, the Norwegian accepted the gulf will not be easy to overcome.

"It's not a quick fix," said Solskjaer. "It's something that we've started and I think you can see we're still a way off. We started something that needed doing."

Solskjaer was also left to field questions about whether or not his rebuild will continue this month. The January transfer window is open. but United are adamant they will only sign players if long-term targets become available. Meanwhile, Ashley Young, who was not in the squad against City, has been linked with a move to Inter Milan

"We are a young team and with injuries we've had and illnesses it shows more and [signing players] is something we're looking at," said Solskjaer. "If something is there for us, I've got the backing to do something but if it isn't the right thing we won't do anything.

"Tonight is not the time to talk about players leaving because we need the players we have in the squad and we've got a few months left of this season. We can't weaken ourselves, we need to strengthen ourselves, if any movement is going to happen."