NOTTINGHAM FOREST 0, MAN UNITED 3
Manchester United’s pursuit of a first piece of silverware since 2017 – their most barren run in 40 years – received a lift on the banks of the River Trent.
The Reds built a commanding 3-0 first-leg advantage in their Carabao Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.
First-half goals from Marcus Rashford and Wout Weghorst and a late strike from captain Bruno Fernandes put United tantalisingly close to the final.
It would take a seismic upset in the return at Old Trafford next Wednesday to prevent Erik ten Hag’s side reaching Wembley.
They blew away Forest having won 8-1 on their last visit in February 1999 and having also beaten Forest 3-0 in the Premier League at Old Trafford last month.Embed from Getty Images
Ten Hag described Rashford, second only to Erling Haaland in his goalscoring exploits, as “unstoppable”.
“I am happy with his performances and development. He is growing hugely and he must keep the process going,” he said.
United’s manager was happy with the performance apart from a spell in the first half when they almost let Forest back in the game.
“In the second half we were much better and never allowed them and got a couple more chances,” he added.
Weghorst said: “A great night for us. A great result and of course after this first match, victory is a really good chance and to get to the final.
“It’s always special and you want to score goals. You prefer to have this first one as quick as possible so I was really happy. I think it was an important moment also. It gave us a good feeling at the break.
“We started well and had a great goal. We didn’t have the control like we wanted it and made it too much up and down after. We were lucky their goal was disallowed then to make it 2-0 before half-time was important.
“I just turned to the goal hoping for a rebound and it came exactly like this. It was nice.
“We were not happy with the way we had played in the first half, we wanted more control. That’s something we did in the second half and with the 3-0 at the end it made it even better.
“It’s a great result for us tonight, let’s finish it next week.”
United made three changes from the team that lost to Arsenal.
Casemiro was back from suspension and there were also starts for Victor Lindelof and Tyrell Malacia.
The players missing out were Luke Shaw, who was not in the squad, Raphael Varane and Scott McTominay.
Forest made four changes from the side who drew 1-1 with Bournemouth at the weekend.
Sam Surridge, who came off the bench to score the equaliser, was rewarded with a start. Scott McKenna and January signings Gustavo Scarpa and Danilo also came in.
Goalkeeper Dean Henderson is injured but he would also have been unavailable as he can’t play against his parent club.
The Reds silenced the vociferous home crowd by taking a sixth minute lead through man-of-the-moment Rashford.
Picking up the ball well inside his own half, Rashford broke down the left and cut inside in-between Joe Worrall and Remo Freuler before shooting inside Hennessey’s near post, his 10th goal in 10 games since the World Cup and 18th overall for the Reds this season.
It was also Rashford’s fifth goal in the Carabao Cup, the most since Carlos Tevez hit six in 2008-09.
And they almost doubled their advantage not long after when Antony cut in from the right and bent a shot a couple of feet past the far post.
United were totally dominant but received an almighty let off mid-half when Forest had a goal chalked out for offside with their first attack of note.
The Reds were caught on a three-versus-two break as Morgan Gibbs-White charged down the centre before slipping a pass to his left to Surridge who coolly finished only for VAR to ruled he had strayed marginally offside.
This have Forest a belief they previously lacked and moments later Scarpa’s volley from outside the box drew a great save from David De Gea who also kept out an effort from Brennan Johnson.
It was then Hennessey’s turn to excel blocking Antony’s effort with his legs.
But in the final minute of the opening half, United scored a decisive second. Antony’s fierce drive was well parried by Hennessey but Weghorst, following up, fired into the roof of the net, the first goal the on-loan Burnley striker has scored since this month’s arrival at Old Trafford.
United had great chances to add a third goal early in the second period as Christian Eriksen’s effort hit the bar and Rashford drew a decent stop from Hennessey.
Ten Hag made his first change after 12 minutes as Rashford was replaced by Alejandro Garnacho.
Forest remained a threat as Gibbs-White went close before they made three changes, one of which was the introduction of former Red Jesse Lingard.
United made two further changes with 20 minutes left as Eriksen and Antony were replaced by Fred and Facundo Pellistri then in the closing stages Weghorst made way for Anthony Elanga.
The Reds established a commanding first-leg lead when Fernandes added a third goal in the 89th minute.
Following a scramble the ball was played to Fernandes who found the bottom corner with a low drive from the edge of the box, his sixth goal of the season as the fans celebrated as though they were already through to Wembley which they are barring an unmitigated disaster in the return.