Marcus Rashford was an inspiration when Manchester United beat Nottingham Forest 3-0 at Old Trafford on Tuesday in their first Premier League game since the World Cup break.
Rashford played a major role in last week’s EFL Cup win over Burnley and once again emerged as United’s standout as they closed on fourth-placed Tottenham.
The England striker opened the scoring for dominant United by scoring a goal straight from the training ground before setting up Anthony Martial.
Forest scored shortly before half-time, but that was no sign that United came under more scrutiny in the second period as they drifted off before adding a late third thanks to substitute Fred.
Erik ten Hag was forced into a somewhat unfamiliar defensive line due to illness, with Luke Shaw as centre-back.
But there was no sign that this hindered United and they soon deservedly took the lead, with Rashford delivering a surprisingly deft shot from Christian Eriksen’s clever corner kick.
Rashford again played a pivotal role when United made it 2-0 three minutes later, catching on to a witty pass from Bruno Fernandes to win Martial to beat an unconvincing Wayne Hennessy at the end of a counter-attack that resulted from a brilliant recovery from Casemiro.
Willy Boly saved a header from Ryan Yates at half-time, but the goal was disallowed due to offside.
United should have taken advantage early in the second half when Anthony missed a brilliant opportunity and only Hennessy could beat.
Rashford also missed a good chance when he eliminated substitute Donny van de Beek, but United took the game out of Forest late as Casemiro pulled the ball back into the final third and found Fred for an easy finish.
1. Casemiro’s assist against Fred marked the first time that two Brazilian players had scored together against Manchester United in the Premier League. compatriot. pic.twitter.com/qcW7nPpQ2S
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 27, 2022
What does this mean? Red Devils look free without Cristiano Ronaldo
The announcement of Ronaldo’s departure in the middle of the World Cup was generally well received by United fans, as the Portuguese striker looked like a square peg in a round hole in the first part of the season.
While Burnley and Forest may not be the strongest opponents, United looked agile and uninhibited when Ronaldo failed to contain them.
They should have scored more than on Tuesday, but there was always a feeling that they could improve the situation if it was necessary – in the end it was not necessary, as they were comfortably seeing off a mediocre Forest team.
Casemiro shows his class
Rashford will dominate the headlines, but this was a master class from Casemiro. He played a decisive role as United’s cornerman when he played the ball near his corner flag; then he did the same and made an assist for their third. He was powerful.
Antony is a source of disappointment
Despite scoring several goals, United fans are still waiting for Anthony to really explode. It certainly wasn’t like that here.
His decision making was largely poor. He failed to count any key passes and missed a stunning moment in the second half before being pulled off.
Key facts about opts
– United have not scored four times in a row at Old Trafford in the Premier League for the first time between February and June 2020.
– Forest failed to score in any of their last six league away matches, their longest streak without a goal away from home since November 1970 (seven games).
– Forest have lost to United in each of their last six Premier League games, 27-2 on aggregate. only against Blackburn Rovers (six between 1992 and 1996) did they endure such a long losing streak against one team in the competition.
– Rashford has scored 10 goals in all competitions for Manchester United this season (21 games), twice as many as in all of last season for the Red Devils (5 in 32 games).
United will travel to Wolves on Saturday and Forest will play Chelsea at home the next day.