Marcus Rashford scored one goal and set up another as Manchester United beat Nottingham Forest 3-0 to move a point behind fourth-placed Tottenham in the Premier League.
United’s preparations were disrupted by a virus which left Raphael Varane, who had only just returned from World Cup duty with France, as their only fit centre-back, with Erik ten Hag having to use left-back Luke Shaw alongside him.
But Forest rarely tested their makeshift backline, and, in United’s first Premier League game since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure, Rashford took centre stage, dispatching the opener from Christian Eriksen’s clever corner in the 19th minute, then teeing up Anthony Martial for the second goal shortly afterwards.
Forest’s Ryan Yates saw a goal ruled out for offside by VAR shortly before half-time, but United were otherwise dominant and wrapped up the win when the excellent Casemiro stole possession high up the pitch and fed substitute Fred, who lashed home a powerful finish three minutes from time.
The victory ensures United resume their Premier League campaign in the best way possible, closing the gap to Spurs as they chase a top-four finish, while Forest remain 19th, a point from safety.
Man Utd: De Gea (7), Wan-Bissaka (7), Varane (7), Shaw (7), Malacia (7), Casemiro (9), Eriksen (7), Fernandes (7), Antony (6), Martial (7), Rashford (8).
Subs: Van de Beek (6), Garnacho (6), Maguire (6), Elanga (n/a).
Nottingham Forest: Hennessey (7), Aurier (6), Worrall (5), Boly (6), Freuler (6), Lodi (6), Mangala (6), Yates (6), Lingard (6), Johnson (5), Awoniyi (5).
Subs: O’Brien (6), Surridge (6), Toffolo (6), Dennis (6), Williams (n/a).
Man of the match: Casemiro
How United cruised to victory
The warning signs were there for Nottingham Forest from the first few minutes of the game, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Tyrell Malacia finding space on the flanks and the latter seeing a powerful effort turned onto the post by Wayne Hennessey.
The goalkeeper, standing in for the on-loan Dean Henderson against his parent club, was fortunate that shot didn’t squirm into the net rather than onto the upright, but United didn’t have to wait long to make the breakthrough.
Team news – Man Utd hit by virus
- Man Utd were without Victor Lindelof and Scott McTominay due to a virus, with Harry Maguire only fit enough for the bench as Raphael Varane was rushed back in defence.
- Jesse Lingard started against his former club for Nottingham Forest while Wayne Hennessey was named in goal, with Dean Henderson unable to face his parent club.
Rashford’s goal, dispatched first-time following a pre-rehearsed corner routine, made it five in his last eight games for United either side of the World Cup – where he also netted three times for England – and he then turned provider for Martial.
Hennessey should have done better with Martial’s low effort, the Welsh international beaten despite getting a hand to the shot, but the goal capped a slick counter from the hosts which started with Casemiro winning a tackle near his own byline.
United looked in complete control as half-time approached but they had a let-off when the unmarked Yates had a goal ruled out by VAR following a free kick, his header found to have hit Wily Boly in an offside position before beating David de Gea.
Forest started the second half a little more brightly, but the best chances continued to fall to United, with Antony, Martial, Rashford and Casemiro all denied by Hennessey.
Forest’s best opportunity to pull a goal back came when Brennan Johnson’s attempted flick draw a parried save from De Gea at his near post, but United sealed the win in style.
Casemiro, excellent at both ends of the pitch over the course of the game, showed impressive alertness to intercept a Forest pass as they attempted to launch a counter-attack, then played in Fred, whose fine finish found the far corner, capping a satisfying night’s work for the hosts.
Rashford’s fine form – Opta stats
- Marcus Rashford has scored 10 goals in all competitions this season for Manchester United (21 games), double his tally from the whole of the last campaign (five in 32 games).
- Anthony Martial has been directly involved in five goals in his last six Premier League appearances for Manchester United (three goals, two assists all under Erik ten Hag) – one more than he managed in his previous 21 (under Ralf Rangnick, Michael Carrick and Ole Gunnar Solskjær).
- Fred’s goal, assisted by Casemiro, was the first time two Brazilians combined for a Manchester United goal in the Premier League.
- Manchester United have kept four consecutive clean sheets at Old Trafford in the Premier League for first time since February-June 2020.
Manchester United are away to Wolves in their next Premier League game on Saturday, with kick-off at 12.30pm.
Nottingham Forest host Chelsea live on Sky Sports on Sunday, with kick-off at 4.30pm.