On Saturday, United overcame a two-goal deficit to upset Nottingham Forest 3-2 after being first shellshocked by their opponents. The opening four minutes saw two goals conceded by Erik ten Hag’s team, both from Taiwo Awoniyi and Willy Boly. In the first half, the hosts did score back when Eriksen connected with a cross from Marcus Rashford, but a deft corner kick by Fernandes allowed Casemiro to equalize. With 30 minutes left, 10-men Forest were unable to hold on, and Fernandes’ penalty sealed the comeback to secure a crucial three points. Forest defender Joe Worrall was sent off. Express Sport examines the key talking points of the match here, including Rashford’s direct message to Erik ten Hag.
Punished for a slow start
Last year, Forest struggled away from home, but despite conceding twice in the opening four minutes, United were unable to take advantage. Before many spectators had even taken their seats, Awoniyi gave the visitors the lead after he responded from a United corner by sprinting up the field, brushing off Rashford, and finishing past Andre Onana, who would have thought that he could have done much more to stop the goal.
A traumatized After unintentionally being struck in the face by a Morgan Gibbs-White free kick that went into the goal, United fell further behind when Boly doubled their lead. Boly, however, was unaware of his contribution.
The traveling contingent quickly cheered “sacked in the morning” to Ten Hag, who was clearly furious with his side’s inability to start strong and immediately bounce back from last week’s defeat to Tottenham.
Last-chance blows in a fight
After replacing him with Rasmus Hojlund through a transfer, Ten Hag probably believed Anthony Martial would have something to show for his first Premier League start of the year. Before being replaced by Jadon Sancho at the hour mark, the Frenchman cut a lonely figure up front and struggled to have any kind of impact on the game.
With only this season left on his contract and firmly in the bottom of the pecking order, Martial may have missed his last chance to realize his enormous potential at Old Trafford now that Ten Hag has admitted that Hojlund will be fit to play against Arsenal next. It is unlikely that Martial will get another chance anytime soon. It’s still possible to leave this summer if the perfect offer comes up. Whatever transpires, Martial’s United career appears to be finished forever.
More gloom in the middle
The balance between Fernandes, Casemiro, and either Mason Mount or Christian Eriksen has not been ideal this season, allowing their opponents to consistently exploit United’s weaknesses in the middle of the field.
Despite ultimately winning, Fernandes and Eriksen once more played very high and failed to provide Casemiro with any protection, instead joining the Brazilian in possession.
But they failed to stop Forest from threatening and left United in big trouble on a number of occasions – especially when Casemiro stepped up to try and intercept, which repeatedly left the center-backs exposed. Perhaps Ten Hag needs to consider stepping up plans for Sofyan Amrabat or introducing Scott McTominay into the starting lineup to help counter the opposition’s advantage in the middle of the pitch.
Martial being handed a rare start enabled Ten Hag to move Rashford back to the left, where he shone last season. He was able to get the Red Devils back into the game, picking the ball up on the left before breezing past a Forest defender and putting a perfect cross in for Eriksen to tap home.
In undoubtedly his best performance of the season, it was a telling message from Rashford that he needs to be playing on the left wing going forward as he played a big role in the second goal too. After Fernandes sent a wide free-kick back to Rashford outside of the box, the pair completed a one-two via a stunning chipped Rashford pass as the captain then set up Casemiro to score.
Once again it was Rashford who made the difference for the all-important goal, sizing up Danilo before moving past the Brazilian to win a penalty after being clipped. Having been anonymous as a central striker in United’s first two games, Ten Hag has surely got to get the message that Rashford is happier – and more effective – playing from the left.
Imminent double exits
Because Crystal Palace’s transfer coordinator Dougie Freedman was present and his team is trying to finalize a deal for goalkeeper Dean Henderson, it’s possible that United also finalized the exits of two players during the game.
According to The Telegraph, Henderson, who was selected for the Forest game’s bench, has been offered permission to leave after today’s game to pass a medical.
Similar to how Hannibal Mejbri did not make the team against Spurs, he was not named in the squad and did not play for the Under-21s on the same day. A loan to another party seems to be Mejbri’s best option right now.