Marcus Rashford shines in downpour as Manchester United tops Forest
Manchester United scored a pair of first-half goals en route to a rain-drenched 3-0 win over Nottingham Forest as an old Premier League rivalry was renewed at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
Both Man Utd and Forest entered the World Cup break in winning ways but well below their preferred Premier League station, and would’ve looked at this fixture -- their first against each other in the Premier League for a quarter-century -- as a chance to fly high.
WATCH MANCHESTER UNITED vs NOTTINGHAM FOREST FULL MATCH REPLAY STREAM
Marcus Rashford had a goal and an assist in the first half and United was relieved when a Willy Boly would-be concession was taken off the board by VAR for a razor-thin offside before halftime. Anthony Martial and Fred scored the hosts’ other two goals.
The win moves Man United to 29 points, good for fifth place in the Premier League. The Red Devils are a point back of fourth-place Spurs and have played one fewer match than Tottenham.
Forest fails to move out of the bottom three, remaining on 13 points, one less than the safe spaces.
[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]
Cristiano who? (We’re kidding, but this was a small test passed)
Cutting ties with one of the greatest players of all-time isn’t easy nor is it recommended, and it can be even dicier when that player happens to be a goal scorer beloved within your fan base.
But so far, super good for Erik ten Hag and Manchester United after granting wantaway Cristiano Ronaldo his exit. The Red Devils were bright early despite overcast conditions and a downpour of rain at Old Trafford.
Perhaps most intriguing for ETH was the combination of left wing Marcus Rashford and finally healthy center forward Anthony Martial. Rashford scored early and Martial took his time to get into the flow of things before getting a goal (not without considerable help from Forest backup goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, as Man Utd loanee Dean Henderson could not play against his parent club).
Ten Hag continued to show his steadied power at Old Trafford by starting left back Luke Shaw at center back over Harry Maguire, who was very good for England at the World Cup. That fact could’ve swayed some bosses to start Maguire with Lisandro Martinez still celebrating Argentina’s World Cup win, but Ten Hag stood firm.
The cherry on top? Luke Shaw was actually very good at CB. No one’s mistaking Forest for Barcelona 2009, but Shaw played strong despite his stature and it comes as no surprise that the Southampton product was very good on the ball in making well over 100 touches.
Ten Hag wouldn’t have been too worried about the height issue anyway, as Martinez is no giant. And the athleticism of Shaw and Malacia on the left is a new wrinkle for top four rivals to consider as an option for United in future games.
Really good (re)start for Ten Hag’s Red and White Army. At this point, it’s difficult to believe that United is finally in the right hands. Now will those hands get the pieces they need to deliver something special this season, as the club may be up for sale?
Stars of the show
Manchester United heads to the Molineux to meet Wolves at 7:30am ET Saturday, New Year’s Eve.
Forest will wait til New Year’s Day for an 11:30am ET Sunday visit from Chelsea.
Erik ten Hag reaction: Man United boss joins NBC’s pitchside desk
On Marcus Rashford’s game: “We are happy with him. He is a continually a threat for every defense. He has a really big heart and a magnificent shot. He’s also good in assist and in the counter attack he was incredibly good. He played a really strong match and has had a good season. We hope he can keep the progress going.”
On why the team is playing so well in possession: “We are not bad in possession. We made control in the game but that also has to do with the role of Christian Eriksen and Casemiro. They know when to speed up, when to slow down. You can play them the ball in any situation and they stay composed.”
On searching for another striker: “We have a front line that no defending line likes to play against. We have so much movement, but there are many games coming and with every third day, you have to be tough and fit. We have to be prepared for that and that’s why we’re looking for one.”
On Luke Shaw playing center back: “Harry Maguire was ill. That’s why he was on the bench, otherwise I would’ve played him. We had to be a little bit creative with Harry, and Victor not there, Lisandro not there, and Raphael only had two days training. Luke offered himself last week. He played a magnificent game. Looks like he’s played as a center back for many, many years.”
Bruno Fernandes reaction
On captaining Man Utd: “I’m not that young. I saw [Tim Howard] play. It’s difficult to describe the honor that I feel. Obviously playing for this massive club is an honor, but being captain is something that you don’t dream about. It’s impossible to describe.”
On what’s changed under Erik Ten Hag: “You enjoy it when you win games. The strikers want goals and assists, but the main thing for us, with the difficult moments in changing coaches, we’ve found now a coach that gave us stability, something that was missing. And big discipline from our team that was missing.”
Marcus Rashford goal video: Set piece magic blasted home
Anthony Martial goal video: Hennessey can’t corral worm burner
How to watch Manchester United vs Nottingham Forest live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 3pm ET, Tuesday Dec. 27TV Channel: USA NetworkOnline: Stream via NBCSports.com
Key storylines & (young) star players
Officially free from Cristiano Ronaldo distractions, who will look even more free without the Portuguese GOAT and recent club albatross around? Our bets are Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, but Jadon Sancho and Antony might shine more, too.
Forest beat Valencia in a friendly on Dec. 16, with Taiwo Awoniyi and Emmanuel Dennis amongst the goals. Both forwards firing forward consistently would but the Tricky Trees neatly above the drop zone very, very soon.
Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Jadon Sancho (disciplinary), Lisandro Martinez (late return from World Cup), Axel Tuanzebe (undisclosed), Mason Greenwood (suspension - MORE), Diogo Dalot (hamstring)
Nottingham Forest team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Cheickou Kouyate (thigh), Giulian Biancone (knee), Omar Richards (calf), Moussa Niakhate (thigh) | QUESTIONABLE: Morgan Gibbs-White (undisclosed), Serge Aurier (calf), Wayne Hennessey (undisclosed)