Marcus Rashford continued his recent Manchester United renaissance with a deadly goal and assist combo before HT on the way to a 3-0 landslide victory, which kept Nottingham Forest embedded in the Premier League’s bottom three while putting the Red Devils within a point of fourth-placed Tottenham.
The rain that poured down on Old Trafford during the first half was as steady as United’s early pressure. After Forest goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey turned Tyrell Malacia’s hard shot onto the post, United took the lead in the 20th minute with a well-worked set piece.
Christian Eriksen displayed his customarily superb vision to slide his corner kick into the path of Rashford, who guided home classily from close range for his 10th club goal in all competitions this season, to follow up his supreme solo effort against Burnley in the Carabao Cup last week.
Erik ten Hag’s men then doubled their advantage three minutes later, courtesy of an attack that started with a tenacious Casemiro challenge on Taiwo Awoniyi deep in the Brazilian’s own half.
After returning World Cup finalist Raphaël Varane and early pacesetter Malacia helped move the ball up the pitch, Bruno Fernandes played a perfect pass down the left into the path of Rashford, who burst forward and chopped inside Serge Aurier before finding Anthony Martial.
His side-footed effort audaciously beat the dive of Wayne Hennessey after going through the legs of Willy Boly, surely sealing the game with well over an hour remaining.
Despite facing a lost cause already, Forest’s vice-captain Ryan Yates had other ideas at least, and he sent David de Gea panicking just after the half-hour mark.
Yates also momentarily halved the deficit just before HT, nodding in off the far post with the aid of a Boly deflection from Renan Lodi’s whipped free-kick, but the goal was ruled out after the centre-back was deemed offside by VAR.
That only served to further fire up Steve Cooper’s side, though the visitors’ morale would be further dented by the influential ex-United man Jesse Lingard’s withdrawal through injury shortly after HT, prematurely ending a nightmare return to the Theatre of Dreams.
With fitness in mind, United duo Antony and Martial were withdrawn for Donny van de Beek and teenager Alejandro Garnacho. With their fresh legs, they worked together to set up Rashford, but Hennessey made a great save.
Late substitute Fred had the last laugh on 87 minutes though, applying a cool finish to the excellent Casemiro’s inch-perfect ball, after the midfielder had shrewdly intercepted Emmanuel Dennis’ attempt to launch a Forest counter.
Forest’s first PL away win in 23 years remains elusive, and with the team’s sole league goal on hostile turf still dating back to a 1-1 draw at Everton in August, their odds for an instant relegation will stay painfully short going into 2023.
United, meanwhile, will be confident of overhauling Spurs, as they have a game in hand on the North Londoners and can even leapfrog Antonio Conte’s charges temporarily with a win at Wolves at lunchtime on Saturday.