Rashford eases Manchester United to first-leg win over Nottingham Forest | Carabao Cup

The fact that only Erling Haaland has scored more goals than Marcus Rashford among Premier League players in all competitions this season puts the England striker’s progress into perspective as his 18th of the season saw Manchester United put a foot in the Carabao Cup final.

If Sunday’s loss to Arsenal ended any optimistic dreams of league glory, it may have served to whet Erik ten Hag’s appetite for a more realistic target for silverware in the cups. His first XI made short shrift of Nottingham Forest in the first leg of this semi-final as fresh goals from Wout Weghorst and Bruno Fernandes gave them a comfortable cushion ahead of next Wednesday’s second leg at Old Trafford.

Casemiro’s return, after being suspended at the Emirates, brought calm and dynamism to United’s midfield, but it was Rashford’s brilliant outspokenness that helped set them apart from opponents who are now free to focus on the game. maintaining their Premier League status.

Forest attacked well enough, but Fernandes’ goal a minute from time, when he hit a low drive after being picked off by Anthony Elanga, gave a measure of the difference between these sides.

Rashford are further behind Haaland’s 31 goals than United behind Arsenal in the league, but it’s the momentum that is as heartening as anything for Ten Hag as he seeks to end United’s six-year wait for a trophy. It was in this competition and then against these opponents, in the week around Christmas, that Marcus Rashford’s hot streak began. Helping knock Burnley out of the Carabao Cup and then kicking off a 3-0 rout of Forest showed a man seemingly getting back to the height of his game. How he’s started since then.

The opener here was his 10th goal in 10 games since the World Cup, and his 18th for United this season. As he can make the game simple. There wasn’t too much danger as Lisandro Martínez, close to his own signing, found Fernandes.

His pass invited Rashford from inside his own half; Still, Forest didn’t look too upset. Maybe they should have been. Rashford simply ran towards Remo Freuler and Joe Worrall, then between them and, earning a slightly fortuitous ricochet, to pass the ball between Wayne Hennessey and his near post.

Wout Weghorst scores his first Manchester United goal against Nottingham Forest
Wout Weghorst scores his first Manchester United goal against Nottingham Forest. Photograph: Tim Goode/PA

United looked in complete control, Antony cutting inside the right wing to wrap two left-footers just wide, but then Forest thought they had equalised.

Bravely leaving Morgan Gibbs-White in the No.10 position even when United were attacking, they took advantage when Danilo sent their signature record away. He waited late – too late as it turned out – to pass wide for Sam Surridge to side-foot cleanly into the low corner with his right foot. VAR ruled the striker offside by a knee.

It gave Forest heart, however, and when Gibbs-White’s corner was cleared by David de Gea, Gustavo Scarpa delivered an extremely technical volley just outside the penalty area for the United goalkeeper parry safely.

Forest were gaining momentum now and twice Johnson was sent running down his preferred inside right channel. First, Scarpa’s pass gave him a run with Aaron Wan-Bissaka which he won but kept shooting low for De Gea to save to his right.

When he escaped moments later, with Gibbs-White stealing the ball from Casemiro to feed it, the Welsh striker aimed for the near top corner but exploded wide.

The game was getting more end-to-end, with a second goal looking imminent, and when Antony combined well with Weghorst to clear inside the box, Hennessey, replacing Dean Henderson, pulled wide for save superbly.

United, however, appeared to have put the game to bed in the 45th minute. Talk about a good time to score. Antony started the move with a neat ball into the corner inside his own half and raced on to receive a long return pass from Casemiro. The Brazilian took his time to allow the ball to bounce before unleashing a shot that Hennessey could only parry. Weghorst stabbed the ball high into the net on the rebound for his first United goal.

Whether Forest were brave or naive in leaving three players when United attacked helped make this game a spectacle. Christian Eriksen sent a nice shot against the angle of the bar and the post.

After receiving a jab to the ribs from Serge Aurier, Rashford’s evening, ahead of the England coaching duo watching Gareth Southgate and Steve Holland, ended after he was replaced by Alejandro Garnacho.

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