Manchester United defeat Nottingham Forest 3-0 at the City ground to give them a strong lead ahead of the 2nd leg at Old Trafford next week.
Marcus Rashford opening the scoring, with Wout Weghorst and Bruno Fernandes adding the others.
The two sides have come head to head 106 times, going all the way back to a 1-1 draw in 1892. Overall, United have lost 33, drawn 24 and won 49 times, including eight consecutive victories and the famous 8-1 win back in 1999. Therefore, previous results favoured the Manchester side.
Forest headed into the game with three wins in five, entering the new year in strong form. Forest sat 13th in the Premier League table, four points above the relegation zone despite only being promoted last season.
United headed into the game in good form despite the loss to Arsenal, winning eight games in ten. The Manchester side sat fourth in the Premier League table, level with Newcastle, six points off Manchester City.
- David De Gea
- Aaron Wan Bissaka
- Victor Lindelof
- Lisandro Martinez
- Tyrell Malacia
- Christian Eriksen
- Bruno Fernandes
- Marcus Rashford
- Wout Weghorst
- Wayne Hennessey
- Serge Aurier
- Joe Worral
- Scott McKenna
- Renan Lodi
- Remo Freuler
- Danilo dos Santos de Oliveira
- Gustavo Scarpa
- Brennan Johnson
- Sam Surridge
- Morgan Gibbs-White
For United, the main talking point in Erik Ten Hag’s line-up came through the inclusion of Swedish defender Victor Lindelof.
Due to Luke Shaw’s absence through illness, Tyrell Malacia started at left full back. This is significant as in games where Raphael Varane’s been rested or Lisandro Martinez wasn’t fully fit, Ten Hag had opted to use Shaw as a centre half.
Therefore, with the English international’s illness and Varane being rested, Lindelof had been selected. Despite the Swede’s qualities in some areas, this may have been a point in which Forest looked to target and exploit off.
Another key inclusion was the return of five-time Champions League winner Casemiro. The Brazilians quality in defence and in attack was dearly missed against Arsenal, and thus the return of the defensive midfielder would be a big boost for Ten Hag’s side.
United started the game strongly, blitzing out of the blocks, pressing high up and transitioning the ball well. This looked like a statement of intent from Ten Hag’s men, stemming from the disappointment of their loss against league leaders Arsenal just three days prior.
Such intensity from United was perfectly defined in the sixth minute when United’s number 10, Rashford, picked the ball up in space off the left wing. He began to drive at the Forest defence, skipping in-between two, before using his blitzing pace to set himself away from defenders, and firing home on his weaker left foot to give United an early lead. This marked Rashford’s tenth goal since returning for the World Cup, the highest in Europe’s top five leagues.
Marcus Rashford has scored 10 goals in all competitions since the World Cup. He is the ONLY player in Europe’s Top 5 Leagues to do so.
Most in form player in the World. 🌍 pic.twitter.com/4g8euAvFKW
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) January 25, 2023
United’s strong start continued, when just a minute later, Brazilian winger Antony made his trademark cut in, shifting the ball onto his left to shoot, but his shot was just narrowly wide.
However, Forest then began to grow into the game, with the home crowd firing the players up.
Despite the return of Casemiro, United looked vulnerable in midfield. This came from Casemiro’s desire to wonder forward to support the attack, which left the United defence vulnerable.
This was subsequently punished as Forest hit United on the counter, with Morgan Gibbs-White charging at the United goal before he laid it off for Sam Surridge who placed his effort into the bottom right corner.
However, VAR saved United’s blushes as Surridge was in an offside position when receiving the pass from Gibbs White. Thus, the game remained 0-0.
Forest continued to probe, causing United consistent problems on the counter attack.
In the 32nd minute, United came very close after some superb tiki-taka passing set Antony through on goal, who’s effort couldn’t get past Wayne Hennessey in goal.
Just before half time, new signing Weghorst opened his goal scoring account at Manchester United. The Dutchman pounced first from a rebound after Antony’s initial effort was saved.
This secured United a 2-0 lead at half time.
Danish international Christian Eriksen came bitterly close after he was laid off just outside the box in which his first-time curler struck the crossbar.
Brennan Johnson and Gibbs-White were consistent problems for United’s defence even managing to disrupt Casemiro’s rhythm. This led to a good chance for Forest as Gibbs-White robbed the ball of the Brazilian midfielder giving him the space to launch a left footed strike which blazed just over the bar.
Fernandes finished off the first leg in emphatic style with a composed volley after a scramble in the box gave Antony Elanga the opportunity to lift it towards the Portuguese who drilled his effort past the Welsh goalkeeper.
This cemented a 3-0 victory for United, finishing a successful evening for Ten Hag’s men.
Ultimately, United were too strong for this newly promoted Forest side and the extra quality seen through players like Rashford and Fernandes shone through.
However, despite the win being deserved, a 3-0 victory could be a misleading scoreline as the turning point in this game was the overturned offside. If Surridge’s goal remained, the game could have been totally different as Forest had the momentum and the home crowd was pushing the players on.
The openness of United’s midfield illustrated Ten Hag’s desire to play on the front foot sending bodies forward. However, this let Johnson and Gibbs-White thrive. If Forest had used their counter attacks better, they could have potentially damaged United.
Lindelof was a little shaky at the back, which helped Forest, but Martinez’s warrior mentality kept United defensively solid. This was particularly illustrated when he threw his head into the ball despite the potential of getting injured from an opposing players high foot.
Despite the loss, Steve Cooper will have positives to take particularly from Forest’s offense, creating a couple chances against a resilient United defence this season.
Ten Hag will be very pleased with the result as it gave them a strong 3-0 lead to take to Old Trafford, where it’d be very unlikely United would lose to such an extent that they would be eliminated. Thus, this means the likelihood of a trip to Wembley could become a reality for United fans who have been silverware deprived since Jose Mourinho’s first season at the club five years ago.
United next face Reading at Old Trafford on Saturday night, hoping to make it comfortably through to the fifth round of the FA Cup before facing Forest again on Wednesday night in the reverse leg.
Having been knocked out of the FA Cup, Forest don’t play at the weekend, thus next facing United at Old Trafford.