Manchester United moved closer to a place in the Carabao Cup final after beating Nottingham Forest 3-0 at the City Ground on Wednesday in the first leg of their semi-final.
United scored early and late in the first half to take control, with Marcus Rashford scoring a solo goal to continue their searing form and Wout Weghorst converting a single rebound to secure his first goal for the club since his loan movement. of Burnley.
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Forest, seeking their first League Cup final appearance since 1992, showed well but were unable to make the most of several promising attacks. And a Bruno Fernandes goal in the 89th minute means next week’s second leg at Old Trafford is surely just a formality for Man United to secure a trip to Wembley.
“I’m happy with the performance, for 90 minutes we controlled the game,” United manager Erik ten Hag said. “There was a moment that could have changed the game and we have to be aware of it and improve.
Ten Hag’s determination to make the most of a trophy chance in his first season in charge at Old Trafford was evident in another strong starting line-up which included Casemiro returning from the suspension he served in of Sunday’s Premier League loss to Arsenal.
It took just six minutes for the visitors to move past, with Rashford once again finding the net. This time the goal was entirely the work of the England striker as he advanced down the left from inside his own half before slotting inside between two Forest defenders and firing at the near post with his left foot.
The goal was Rashford’s 10th in 10 games since the World Cup, the most scored by a player in Europe’s top five leagues.
“I’m happy with Marcus’ performance and his development,” Ten Hag said. “Since the start of the season, he has been growing and continuing to do so.
“We have to continue his process and if he’s in that mood and that spirit, I think he’s unstoppable. It’s up to the team to get him in the right positions.”
But Forest were not discouraged by this first concession and almost equalized on several occasions. Brennan Johnson’s pace was a constant threat to the United defence, allowing her to force a low save from David de Gea and later explode over the bar when her composure finally gave out.
The hosts thought they had equalized in the 23rd minute when a lightning break culminated when Sam Surridge found the net, but a VAR check concluded he had been offside.
Then just before half-time, United grabbed a potentially crucial second. Antony, who had already seen a good chance disallowed, forced Forest goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey to block his well-taken volley, allowing Weghorst to open his United account.
It was a similar story in the second half. United nearly made it 3-0 when Christian Eriksen fired a first shot against the crossbar. At the other end, Forest were again left behind with a lack of clinical contact when the lively Morgan Gibbs-White fired wildly off target after winning the ball just outside the box.
Fernandes’ late strike, rolling low just inside the box, may have been cruel on Forest, but will surely see Man United head to Wembley as they seek their first major trophy in six years.
“Obviously it was a disappointing scoreline,” Forest manager Steve Cooper said. “The last thing you want to do is go to Old Trafford with this result.
“Obviously Rashford is one of the in-form players in the country, but for us to allow him to do what he has done is not enough.”
Newcastle United won 1-0 at Southampton in the first leg of the other semi-final.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.