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 Premier League glory, it may have served to whet Erik ten Hag’s appetite for a more realistic goal 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 return to Old Trafford.
Casemiro, back after being suspended at the Emirates, stepped back and headed into United’s midfield but it was Rashford’s brilliant frankness that helped set them apart from opponents who are now free to play. focus on maintaining their Premier League status.
Forest played well enough in the first half, but Fernandes’ third goal a minute from time, when he hit a low shot after being picked off by Anthony Elanga, provided a measure of the difference between these teams .
Rashford follows Haaland’s current tally of 31 goals more than United trail Arsenal in league points, but it’s the momentum that’s as heartening as anything for Ten Hag as he looks to end the United’s six-year wait for a trophy. It was in this competition, and then against these opponents, in the week surrounding Christmas that Rashford’s hot streak began. Helping Burnley exit the Carabao Cup and then kicking off Forest’s previous 3-0 rout at Old Trafford showed a man seemingly back to the top of his game. How it started since then. The opener here was his 10th goal in 10 games since the World Cup, and he can make the game so simple.
There didn’t seem to be much danger when Lisandro Martínez, near his own signature, found Fernandes. His pass invited Rashford from inside his own half; Still, Forest didn’t look too upset. Maybe they should have been. Rashford ran to Remo Freuler and Joe Worrall and then between them, before teasing the ball on his left foot to place a finish between Wayne Hennessey and his near post.
Rashford became the first United player to score five League Cup goals since Carlos Tevez netted six in 2008-09. “There are other players who are playing very well,” Ten Hag said. “But I’m really happy with Marcus.”
Forest nearly fought back, leaving Ten Hag with a key point to warn his players afterwards. Bravely leaving three men even when United were attacking, the home side took advantage when Danilo fired Morgan Gibbs-White with a bang. He waited – too long as it happened – to pass wide for Sam Surridge to side-foot cleanly into the low corner with his right foot. VAR ruled the striker, fresh from his equalizer at Bournemouth on Saturday, offside by a knee. “There shouldn’t have been an offside,” Forest manager Steve Cooper said. “It was time to get it right.”
It gave Forest heart, however, and when Gibbs-White’s corner was cleared by David de Gea, Gustavo Scarpa volleyed just outside the penalty area. The United keeper parried to safety. Brennan Johnson also escaped into her favored inside right channel, but her first effort was saved by De Gea and the second he exploded away from the near post.
The game was getting more and more from start to finish, with a second goal looking imminent, and when Antony combined well with Weghorst to get clear, Hennessey, replacing the ineligible and injured Dean Henderson, saved superbly.
United, however, put the game to bed in the 45th minute. Antony, after starting the move with a nice ball to the corner from Casemiro, received a delayed return before firing. Hennessey parried and Weghorst stabbed the ball high into the net on the rebound for his first United goal.
Whether Forest were brave or naive in leaving that attacking approach, it helped make this game a spectacle. Christian Eriksen fired a nice shot against the angle of the bar and post at one end before Gibbs-White stole possession from Casemiro and sent a left-footed shot at the other end.
After receiving a blow to the ribs from Serge Aurier, Rashford’s night, ahead of the England coaching duo watching Gareth Southgate and Steve Holland, was over. He was replaced by Alejandro Garnacho. United had already done enough.
. Rashford assist Manchester United win match away v Nottingham Forest Cup Carabao