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Three things we learned from Manchester United’s dominant trouncing of Nottingham Forest

by Derick Kinoti

Manchester United hosted Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford, with Erik ten Hag keen to pick up where he left off against Fulham before the World Cup break.

United were looking to build on a victory against Burnley to clinch all three points against a tricky opponent in Nottingham Forest.

Ten Hag fielded a strong starting XI albeit with a makeshift backline. David de Gea started in goal with a centre-back partnership of Raphael Varane and Luke Shaw ahead of him. Tyrell Malacia and Aaron Wan-Bissaka constituted the full-back pairing on either flank.

Casemiro as the deepest-lying midfielder started alongside Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen. Anthony Martial led the line with Antony and Marcus Rashford on either side of him.

Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 3-0 win against Nottingham Forest

Dominant first-half

United were by far the better side in the opening 45 minutes that saw the team head into the break two goals ahead.

United had the lion’s share of possession and fashioned the most clear-cut opportunities. Ten Hag’s men mustered an enormous 70% possession to Forest’s paltry 30%.

The Reds registered six shots, with three being on target compared to their opponent’s two shots with only one challenging De Gea.

United opened the score with a brilliant training ground set-piece routine. Rashford made a superb run to get on the end of a low-driven corner cross from Eriksen and fired the ball past a helpless Wayne Hennessey.

Three minutes later, Rashford set up Martial after taking his defender on. The Frenchman made no mistake from the edge of the box with a shot that crept past the Forest goalkeeper.

Beyond their attacking forays, United did well to limit Steve Cooper’s side to few attacking opportunities. The defence weathered any storm that came their way and neutralized Forest’s players.

In a defensive masterclass orchestrated by Casemiro and Varane, aside from a disallowed goal, United never looked like conceding and were comfortably in control of proceedings throughout. No doubt Ten Hag would have been elated with his players’ first-half showing.

Rashford is firing on all cylinders

Rashford is a man on form! The Englishman can’t seem to stop scoring at the moment.

On top of a goal and assist in the first half, Rashford was a thorn in the backside of the Forest defence all game. His speed and constant runs in behind kept Forest defenders on their toes during the time he was on the pitch.

What was more impressive about his display on the night is that he shone across all three positions in the forward line.

As he did against Burnley, Rashford played on the right, on the left and down the middle. In all three roles, he excelled to great effect and showed his class.

His versatility will especially please Ten Hag whose attacking department has been stripped to the bare bones after Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure. At the moment, Rashford is offsetting this burden.

Ten Hag recently stated that Rashford is capable of scoring 20 goals this season. With his goal against Forest, he’s halfway there and he seems to be growing from strength to strength with every passing game.

Antony slightly below par

In a game where so many of United’s players stepped up and proved their worth, Antony missed a beat.

Out of United’s attacking players, he was the one who produced the poorest performance. He misplaced a few easy passes in crucially decisive moments, some coming on the counter-attack from which the Red Devils could have benefitted.

The Brazilian also missed a relatively easy finish with his strong left foot when Fernandes teed it up to him on a plate with just the goalkeeper to beat.

Compared to Rashford and even Alejandro Garnacho, Antony seemed reluctant to take his man on even when the opportunity presented itself. Also unlike Rashford, whenever Antony found himself on the left, he failed to deliver.

Hopefully, it’s nothing to be worried about and the winger will soon get back to his best.

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