BARCELONA • After their remote hopes of another improbable Champions League revival were stopped dead by Lionel Messi and a rampant Barcelona, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted his Manchester United side have to undergo a huge overhaul to return to Europe's elite.
United tried in vain to summon up the spirit of 1999 at the same Nou Camp where they stunned Bayern Munich with a 2-1 comeback win in the Champions League final.
While they started the second leg of their quarter-final brightly, with Marcus Rashford hitting the bar, a pair of mistakes gave Messi the chance to put the Red Devils away.
Ashley Young, playing as left-back in place of the suspended Luke Shaw, gave the ball away for the first while David de Gea, United's player of the year four times in the past five years, let a tame effort slip under his hands.
Just like that, their hosts were out of sight 3-0 on Tuesday and 4-0 on aggregate, the first time United have lost by four or more goals in a two-legged European knockout tie.
Solskjaer said he knew all along "there is work to be done and the next few years are going to be massive to get to the level that Barcelona and other teams are at".
The Norwegian added: "We were fighting against a great team... but I've said all along this isn't going to change overnight.
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There is work to be done and the next few years are going to be massive to get to the level that Barcelona and other teams are at.
OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER, Manchester United manager, on the scale of the job at hand.
"We've good players to work with and, at the moment, we've done really well to get to the quarters and challenge for top four (in the Premier League). But we've got a rebuilding job. It starts with the coaches and players, and with one or two additions (in the summer).
"We're on with the job and have spoken to the players we need to get the best out of each other, create an environment of top-class attitude, world-class attitude every single day."
While he has restored United's confidence, which hit rock-bottom under Jose Mourinho, and has overseen an improvement in results in the four months since taking the job in December, the scale of the long-term surgery his side need was laid bare in Spain.
Barcelona, led by a brace from Messi and a fine curling strike from Philippe Coutinho, were dominant, with Solskjaer conceding he "could see the difference between the two teams".
His reasoning cut little ice with former Chelsea striker Tony Cascarino, though, who felt that United's lack of character was apparent, with "no one performing to a standard anywhere near good enough to take on Barcelona".
But, while the pundit also reserved criticism for Paul Pogba for "playing his own kind of game", former United star Paul Scholes feels the France midfielder remains a player Solskjaer should retain and build his side around.
Meanwhile, United said yesterday they are investigating racist abuse directed at defender Young on social media after the loss to Barcelona.
The England international was targeted on Twitter after the 33-year-old full-back endured a disappointing night at the Nou Camp.
"Manchester United utterly condemns racist social media comments posted around yesterday's Champions League fixture," the club said in a statement.
"We are working to identify individuals involved and we will take the strongest possible action we can against them."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS