NOTTINGHAM: Marcus Rashford continued his fine season as he scored again to help Manchester United beat Nottingham Forest 3-0 in their League Cup semifinal first leg on Wednesday.
England forward Rashford’s superb solo effort after six minutes, dancing past defenders before firing home, took him to 18 goals in all competitions this season. Only Manchester City’s Erling Haaland has more for a Premier League club in 2022-23.
Forest thought they had quickly restored parity at the City Ground after catching United out on the counter but Sam Surridge’s effort was ruled out for offside following a VAR review.
United capitalised on that reprieve by doubling their lead just before halftime, on-loan striker Wout Weghorst netting his first goal since joining the club after Antony’s shot had been well saved.
The second goal killed off Forest hopes of a comeback and Bruno Fernandes added a late third to keep United well on course to win their first trophy since 2017.
“I’m happy with the performance, over 90 minutes we controlled the game,” United coach Erik ten Hag said. “There was one moment which could have changed the game and we have to be aware of that and improve.
“In this mood and with this spirit, he (Rashford) is unstoppable. He can be creative in the final third, to do something in the final third, some crazy stuff, fantasy and adventure.”
United came into the contest having suffered their first defeat since November in all competitions at Arsenal on Sunday and had also lost their last three cup semifinals.
Rashford gave them the perfect platform to improve that record, but Forest responded well, thinking they had immediately levelled, only for VAR to intervene, before the hosts created and wasted more chances.
The visitors produced a fine move to play Antony in on the half-hour mark, but the Brazilian was denied by Forest goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, standing in for on-loan Dean Henderson who cannot play against his parent club United.
The next shot Antony had resulted in the second goal as his powerful effort was beaten away by Hennessey, but Weghorst, on his third appearance, was on hand to open his United account.
United supporters in the away end were singing “Wembley” at halftime and their dreams of returning to the famous old stadium for February’s final continued after the break.
At 2-0, Forest were not completely out of the tie, but Fernandes’s drilled finish in the 89th minute gave United the joint-biggest first-leg win by an away side in a League Cup semifinal and it would take a monumental collapse for Forest to turn things around at Old Trafford next week.
“Obviously, it was a disappointing scoreline,” Forest coach 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 did is not good enough.”
Newcastle United won 1-0 at Southampton in the first leg of the other semifinal. - Reuters