Manchester United 3 – 2 Nottingham Forest. Manchester United came back from two goals down to record a thrilling victory against 10-man Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford.
For the first time in Premier League history, United found themselves two goals behind inside four minutes after an abysmal start to the game led to goals for Taiwo Awoniyi and Willy Boly.
Once Christian Eriksen had pulled one back, and after Casemiro has somehow headed wide of an open net before the break, the Brazilian drew his side level when he bundled home Bruno Fernandes’ header across goal after an inspired Marcus Rashford pass.
United manager Ten Hag highlighted about Fernandes’ inspirational qualities as a captain in the build-up to the match and the Portuguese led from the front as the hosts chased a winner.
Forest skipper Joe Worrall was red carded for bringing Fernandes down on the edge of the area midway through the second period, and though United could not make the most of the free-kick which followed, the Portuguese kept his nerve to drive home the winner 14 minutes from time after Danilo had tripped Rashford.
With injured trio Mason Mount, Luke Shaw and striker Rasmus Hojlund – who has yet to make his debut – all watching from the directors’ box, United will be delighted to emerge with three points, even if they didn’t ease any concerns about their squad.
Moved into a wide position as Anthony Martial and substitute Jadon Sancho operated in the number nine role, Rashford was at least was more of a threat and played with intent from the start.
On the right Antony also teased the Forest defence, though his end product was often disappointing.
Nevertheless, United dug deep into their reserves of character to record the type of comeback victory this ground has witnessed to so often down the years.
But United still look weak down the middle of the pitch.
Forest’s opening goal was a case in point as the home side conceded from a breakaway following their own corner.
They somehow ended up with Rashford and Antony chasing Taiwo Awoniyi, who managed to break free of the home defence and had the strength to hold off the United pair. He the net for an impressive seventh game in a row, having only scored twice in his opening 10 games as a Forest player.
United went into the fixture thinking it would be unlikely any major signings will be made before Friday night’s deadline, but whether that is a sustainable position remains to be seen.
Indeed, it will be interesting to see if Harry Maguire’s view of his United future has changed after he sat on the bench throughout this game.
One of Ten Hag’s first decisions as United boss was to swap the sides of the defence Maguire and Victor Lindelof play on, moving the England man to the right.
That meant it was possible for Maguire to believe that instead of being fourth choice central defender, he was actually the back-up to the often injured Raphael Varane.
But when the Frenchman went off at the break, it was Lindelof who came on. For all Ten Hag’s assurances over Maguire’s valued status, the switch does not indicate the Dutchman actually believes it.
Superb Gibbs-White continues to justify price tag
There were quite a few raised eyebrows 12 months ago when Forest ended up paying £25m plus add-ons to Wolves for Morgan Gibbs-White.
The forward’s performances over the last six months in particular mean that fee now looks like a bargain.
Gibbs-White was one of the key figures in Forest’s successful battle against the drop and then inspired England’s Under-21 side to their first European Championship triumph since 1984.
Senior national team boss Gareth Southgate was watching on at Old Trafford and will surely have been impressed with the 23-year-old’s latest performance.
It was not so much Gibbs-White’s assists for Forest’s two early goals that impressed so much, given the first was basically the last touch by a Forest player before Awoniyi did the rest himself and the second was a corner which United’s defence didn’t attack and hit Boly before going in.
Rather it was Gibbs-White’s movement and ability to both find space and then create something that really caught the eye.
Had Varane not intervened to block off a low cross heading towards Awoniyi, Gibbs-White could have claimed a hat-trick of assists before the break. It was Awoniyi who then blocked a shot from his team-mate that was heading in.
Forest were made to pay for their failure to make the most of those opportunities, although it took an outstanding save from Andre Onana to deny Willy Boly late on, condemning the visitors to return home empty-handed.
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United fans stay behind to protest
Thousands of fans remained inside Old Trafford long after the final whistle, chanting against the Glazer family.
The 1958 Group, who want the Glazers out of the club, had called for fans to remain behind to signal their continued opposition to the American family’s ownership. The vast majority congregated around the players’ tunnel area, but others were in the top tier of the east stand at the other end of the ground with a large ‘Glazers Out’ banner.
There has still been no word on the conclusions of the ‘strategic review’ that was launched in November and which many fans hoped would lead to the club being sold.
source – BBC