Manchester United will carry a 3-0 lead into the home leg of their Carabao Cup semifinal against Nottingham Forest after a commanding victory at the City Ground on Wednesday. Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Wout Weghorst were all on the scoresheet as Erik ten Hag took a huge step towards his first cup final as United manager.
Ten Hag made only three changes to the side that lost to Arsenal in Sunday’s Premier League crunch-match, with Victor Lindelöf, Tyrell Malacia and Casemiro all starting; Raphaël Varane and Scott McTominay dropped to the bench, while Luke Shaw missed out altogether. It was a strong selection, no doubt indicative of ten Hag’s desire to swiftly end his side’s two-game winless streak.
United dominated the early exchanges, and it took Rashford only six minutes to open the scoring. The goal was an almighty display of pace and power — in this case Alan Hansen’s old cliché was more than apposite — with the attacker collecting the ball deep in his own half and charging down the left, bursting past Joe Worrall and Remo Freuler on his way to firing past Wayne Hennessey.
United remained on top for the following few minutes, but Forest gradually began to turn the tide. They thought they’d drawn level midway through the first half, but a smart Sam Surridge finish was chalked off for the narrowest of offsides. Minutes later David de Gea was called into action to tip a venomous Gustavo Scarpa volley to safety, before Brennan Johnson jinked his way through, only to lash wide of the near post.
That only made it more of a relief when United nicked a fortuitous second on the stroke of halftime. Hennessey parried a low Antony effort into the path of Wout Weghorst, who pounced to snatch his first goal in a United shirt. It was harsh on the hosts, who had squandered a couple of decent chances to draw level.
United made a bright start to the second half, and Christian Eriksen soon rattled the top of the post with a curling effort from the edge of the area. However, the second half proved not quite as entertaining as the first, and the tempo dropped as the final whistle drew nearer.
With United maintaining their two-goal buffer, ten Hag elected to switch things up, with Rashford, Eriksen and Antony all withdrawn, and Alejandro Garnacho, Fred and Facundo Pellistri all given some minutes. Anthony Elanga joined the fun in the final minutes, with Weghorst making way.
With just over two minutes of normal time left, United wrapped up the win — and likely the tie — with a third. Elanga did well to dink the ball out to Bruno Fernandes amid a goalmouth scramble, with the onrushing midfielder lashing a low effort past Hennessey and into the net.
The win means United will carry a healthy three-goal cushion into next week’s home leg, with ten Hag within touching distance of sealing a trip to Wembley in just over a month’s time. Newcastle United beat Southampton 1-0 at St Mary’s in the first leg of the other semifinal.