London: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer blamed Manchester United’s lack of ruthlessness as the Norwegian suffered his first domestic defeat as caretaker manager in a 2-0 loss at Arsenal on Sunday.
Granit Xhaka’s early strike and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang’s penalty 21 minutes from time saw Gunners leapfrog United into the Premier League top four.
Unai Emery’s men also close to within just a point of third-placed Tottenham and now hold the upper hand in the race for Champions League qualification.
Arsenal do not face any of the top six in their remaining eight league games, whilst United host title-chasing Manchester City and Chelsea in the coming weeks on top of their Champions League and FA Cup commitments.
“You have to be disappointed with the result, but the performance was a good one,” said Solskjaer.
“The first goal always dictates how the game goes. We created chances, big chances, hit the woodwork twice, (Bernd) Leno played well.
“In terms of what you can control, we shouldn’t be too disappointed.”
European trips to France for both sides in midweek produced vastly contrasting results as United shocked free-spending Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
The Gunners on the other hand went down 3-1 to Rennes to give themselves a mountain to climb in Thursday’s second leg to reach the last eight of the Europa League.
Emery made five changes from that side and was rewarded with a vital victory.
“We are going to play difficult matches and being consistent is very important,” said Emery.
De Gea is not distracted
After a bright start, Arsenal were nearly hit with a sucker punch when with United’s first attack, Romelu Lukaku turned Luke Shaw’s cross onto the crossbar for the first of a series of wasted chances for the Belgian striker. However, at the other end it was the normally flawless David de Gea who was at fault for the opener as the Spaniard failed to read the swerve on Xhaka’s long-range strike 12 minutes in.
Solskjaer, though, rejected suggestions ongoing contract talks over a new deal for the United goalkeeper has effected his concentration.
“David’s really focused and concentrated, he’s too professional to let his mind wander,” said Solskjaer.
United seemed to feel the after-effects of their heroics in Paris early on, but soon clicked into gear to look more like the side that had suffered just one defeat in Solskjaer’s first 17 games in charge. Fred’s curling effort from outside the box clipped the post before Lukaku tried to round Bernd Leno, but the Arsenal goalkeeper stood up well to block....