Ole Gunnar Solskjaer conceded he may have got his team selection wrong while admitting Manchester United “flattered to deceive” in the 1-0 loss to Bournemouth.
United were unchanged from their 3-1 loss at Norwich City six days earlier but were unable to record a fourth straight away victory in all competitions as Joshua King scored a first-half winner.
All of the outfield players in the starting XI featured against Chelsea in the EFL Cup in midweek, too, and there was a notable lack of intensity from Solskjaer’s side.
“I don’t think it’s the effort or the want to do well,” Solskjaer told reporters at a news conference.
“It’s natural when you play Wednesday night and then [play the] early kick-off on Saturday that the physical stats might be affected.
“That’s maybe my mistake, maybe I should have, could have, played a couple of others with fresh legs, but I thought the ones that played against Norwich deserved another chance.”
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Anthony Martial, who came off the bench at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, once again operated as United’s striker ahead of an attacking trio of Marcus Rashford, Andreas Pereira and Daniel James.
Yet none of that quartet came away with any credit, with Pereira and James both taken off while Martial and Rashford mustered a combined two shots between them.
“I think as the whole team, we started well but we were lacking a bit of that end product and the quality at the end,” Solskjaer added when asked specifically about Pereira’s below-par display.
“That just doesn’t apply to Andreas. I thought the front four looked promising but just flattered to deceive a little bit today.
“It looked like we could create chances, but we just didn’t have the last pass or finish. That’s something we need to improve on.”
With Paul Pogba still out injured and the transfer window not open for another two months, Solskjaer is hoping others in his squad can step up and solve his team’s lack of creativity.
“To win games you need to score goals,” Solskjaer said.
“I’m sure Anthony and Marcus are going to get their share of goals. Anthony is going to improve but we need more creativity.
“But we’ve got loads of players here in the squad who could create more. It’s not just looking outside, we have to deal with what we have.”
Bournemouth had not scored for 358 minutes in the Premier League before King struck against his old club, while the Cherries also kept a third successive clean sheet in the top flight.
“I was very pleased with the players,” Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe said in quotes published on his club’s website.
“We felt we needed the win for our own confidence and impetus. It was a really key game.”