Manchester United were humbled 3-1 by their noisy neighbors City in the first leg semi-final match of the Carabao Cup.
Three first-half goals from Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and an own goal from Andreas Pereira put the game beyond doubt before Marcus Rashford pulled one back in the second half.
And Solskjaer has come out to admit his player's mentality in the first period was nothing to write home about.
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“From their first goal to half-time was the worst we’ve played,” admitted Solskjaer.
“In between, our heads dropped, that needed sorting and in the second half we got a good response. It's a steep mountain to climb but we can still climb it.
“I've said before it's not a quick-fix and I think you can see we're still a way off, but we've started something that needed doing.”
The Norwegian boss also questioned the mental strength of his players, claiming they needed to always be at their highest level.
“It's natural your head goes down when you feel you're not performing, but we've got to get out of it quicker, we've got to get to the second-half mentality quicker,” said Solskjaer.
“It can't always be me coming in at half-time, but that's the learning [aspect] in this team.
“We've got a young team. I've said it a few times but it's still in that phase. We're learning and these experiences must stick.
“The second half gives me something to believe in, because it was respectable and a good second half.”
The second leg will be played in three weeks' time at the Etihad with City looking to win the trophy for the third consecutive time.
Both the Serie A and La Liga went on break for the festive season and resumed their respective leagues in the first weekend of 2020.
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