Down The Wings

Manchester United Fan Blog

Match Report: Manchester United 2-0 Nottingham Forest (5-0 agg)

(Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

Manchester United swept aside a spirited Nottingham Forest by a 2-0 scoreline on Wednesday night, with Erik ten Hag’s men triumphing 5-0 on aggregate across both fixtures in the Carabao Cup semi-final to set up a final clash against Newcastle United later this month.

The Red Devils lined up with a strong starting eleven with what is arguably Ten Hag’s best side barring Alejandro Garnacho and Tom Heaton, who replaced Marcus Rashford and David De Gea respectively.

With that being said, United struggled to bombard Steve Cooper’s men throughout the first half; aside from a few half-chances, the home side did not look too threatening. Wout Weghorst was starved of service, but did get on the end of Casemiro’s cross towards the end of the half and hit the post with his header.

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Forest were not without their own opportunities to score in the first forty-five. Brennan Johnson teed up Emmanuel Dennis inside the penalty area, but the latter had his strike blocked from going in by his own team-mate in Sam Surridge. It did look like Lisandro Martinez would have cleared it had it gone further, though.

The second half failed to blossom the way the Old Trafford crowd was hoping it would have done. Weghorst was denied a penalty not long before the hour mark by a dubious refereeing decision after the striker nipped in ahead of Scott McKenna as the defender went to clear it.

Garnacho and Johnson seemed to be having their own personal feud for ten minutes or so, but that soon ended when Garnacho, Weghorst and Antony were replaced by Rashford, Martial and Jadon Sancho. It was a warm, positive reception from the Theatre of Dreams for Sancho, who has endured a prolonged absence from the first team for personal reasons.

The substitutes, who were indicative of Ten Hag’s intention to win, livened the game up dramatically after their introduction not long after an hour of the game.

United took the lead through one of them, Martial, in the 73rd minute. Casemiro allowed the Frenchman through on the attack following an interception in the middle of the park. The striker found himself and two other team-mates outnumbering the Forest defence, opting to play the ball left to Rashford. The pass was poor, but some good fortune allowed United’s no.9 to get the ball back and bury it home from the centre of the area on his return from injury.

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It soon became a double-kill when Rashford played the ball back across goal from the back post having received a delightful outside-of-the-foot Fernandes cross from the right wing. Fred was there to cushion it home into an open net with all the time in the world in the 76th minute to double the advantage.

Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof replaced Raphael Varane and Casemiro after that. Interestingly, Lindelof took up the defensive midfielder role, which has often been manifested in fan theories for years. That could be one to keep an eye on.

Other than that, the game fizzled out, with the best bit of action being a breakaway from The Tricky Trees in the 83rd minute when Danilo had his shot stopped well by Heaton before Surridge fluffed the rebound over the bar to assure United the clean sheet.

Final Score: Manchester United 2-0 Nottingham Forest (5-0 agg) (Martial 73’, Fred 76’)

Man of the match

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Fernandes was the standout performer across the ninety in the opinion of many supporters.

The Portugal international played a delightful outside-of-the-boot ball in the first half to set United in down on the left wing and repeated the trick in the second half to play an important part in Fred’s goal. Aside from one or two wayward passes, the 28-year-old did not put a foot wrong.

He was eager, tenacious and aggressive in the defensive side of the game, too, and that ought to be credited given how comfortable United were in the tie after wrapping it up last week at The City Ground in the first leg. United’s no.8 bagged the third in that one late on, of course.

It was not totally amazing from Fernandes on Wednesday night, but enough to win Man of the Match in what was another good showing from a man who had been berated for inconsistency at the end of the last campaign.

The bigger picture

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It was another risk from the manager to go strong again in a cup game, particularly given the fact his side were three goals to the good on aggregate. It looks like this will be a characteristic of Ten Hag’s tenure in the Old Trafford hotseat, the attitude of going strong in every game until it becomes counter-productive.

United are in the final of the Carabao Cup for 2022/23; there cannot be complaints about the team being strong! The final will be played against a good, solid Newcastle team, and whilst it will not be by any means easy, fans and pundits alike know that now is the opportunity to end the trophy drought. The last time the club won something was the Europa League in 2017 under Jose Mourinho.

The tie was wrapped up last week, so it was good to see the team win without having to overly bust a gut.

Squad depth and fatigue is a concern with the amount of football being played by the important first-team players. The job is to take each game at a time, though, and this hurdle has been passed for sure.

What’s next?

Next up for Ten Hag and United is Crystal Palace at home in the Premier League at 15:00 (BST) this Saturday, which is the 4th February.

After that, it is a midweek clash against Leeds at Old Trafford on Wednesday 8th February at 20:00 (BST).

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