Another semi, same result for Solskjaer: Richard Buxton
Manchester United won't get over their last-four hump until they appoint an upgrade on Solskjaer
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has achieved the impossible as Manchester United manager - failing to get past the semi-finals four times in the last 12 months.
Manchester City were there for the taking in their League Cup semi-final yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Pep Guardiola's men were a depleted side, with Ederson, Eric Garcia, Ferran Torres and Aymeric Laporte unavailable due to Covid-19 or injuries.
Gabriel Jesus and Kyle Walker, who had just recovered from Covid-19, spent the entire game on the bench, as did Sergio Aguero, who was deemed not fit enough to start.
But somehow, Solskjaer's men lost 2-0 at Old Trafford to ensure that silverware continues to elude them.
They may still make up for it in the FA Cup or Europa League, but one fact is indisputable.
Thanks to Solskjaer, Old Trafford is the new home of Manchester's "noisy neighbours".
He continues to talk a good game but, until they can finally reach a tournament's showpiece match, they are still perennial nearly men.
City's understudy goalkeeper Zack Steffen found himself troubled just once by United's well-stocked attack in a game where the visitors had looked ripe for the picking.
A United victory over their depleted local rivals had the potential to herald a power shift in the civic stakes, as well as setting down a marker for the English Premier League's chasing pack.
Instead, second-half goals by John Stones and Fernandinho propelled Guardiola's men to April's showpiece at Wembley, where they will take on Tottenham Hotspur.
City now look best placed to take the fight to Liverpool in this season's title race through their understated but equally impressive level of dominance.
They have reached six League Cup finals in the past eight seasons. A fourth consecutive triumph against Jose Mourinho's men on April 25 will put them on a par with the Reds' class of the 1980s that used the League Cup as a base to build their all-conquering dynasty.
Were that to happen, Guardiola will join Sir Alex Ferguson, Brian Clough and Mourinho as a four-time winner.
Prioritising England's secondary cup competition stands firmly at odds with the open disdain which many of his top-flight peers hold it in.
Harnessing that platform illustrates City's hunger as much as their strength in depth, with Guardiola's starting line-up at the Theatre of Dreams devoid of a recognised striker.
United's credentials for success, meanwhile, appear as flimsy as their new-found status of "joint-top", festooned on them despite goal difference separating them from Liverpool in the EPL table.
Juergen Klopp still needs to fear the threat rumbling down the M62 motorway - except it is City's visit to Anfield on Feb 6 which represents a more credible danger than Solskjaer's title-hunting hopefuls who visit in a top-of-the-table showdown on Jan 18.
Even Guardiola's opposite number had to acknowledge that he has reinvigorated "probably the best team in England" at the moment.
NO END IN SIGHT
Ironically, attempting to follow the League Cup holders' lead has left United in a predicament which has no end in sight.
Selective amnesia saw their sluggish start to the current campaign and a Champions League group-stage humiliation banished to the archives just long enough for Solskjaer to stave off the prospect of a previously jobless Mauricio Pochettino swooping in.
Bruno Fernandes' brilliance allowed him to get by while the Argentinian coach prepared to put his feet under the desk at Paris Saint-Germain.
With Pochettino now unattainable, however, the 20-time English champions sorely lack an alternative plan of action as their latest incumbent continually flatters to deceive.
Patience has yet to wear thin for Old Trafford's corridors of power, with an unctuous executive vice-chairman and absentee yet overbearing owners both unwilling to incur the wrath of the "Red Army" by jettisoning the man who helped seal their 1999 Treble.
Until they do, United will be stuck with Solskjaer and in a rut in all competitions.