Manchester United beat Nottingham Forest 2-0 at Old Trafford on Wednesday to seal a 5-0 aggregate victory in their Carabao Cup semifinal. Anthony Martial and Fred were on the scoresheet as United booked their place at Wembley, where they’ll face Newcastle United on Feb. 25.
Notwithstanding United’s healthy aggregate lead, Erik ten Hag named a strong starting XI. His preferred back four of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphaël Varane, Lisandro Martínez and Luke Shaw shielded backup goalkeeper Tom Heaton, while Bruno Fernandes, Casemiro and Fred formed the central midfield three. Wout Weghorst and Antony were joined by Alejandro Garnacho in attack.
Last week’s first leg started in pulsating fashion; today’s return fixture was rather more pedestrian. United dominated from the first whistle, and by the midway point of the first half had seen three times as much of the ball as their visitors. Forest sat back and successfully soaked up pressure, with a tame long-range Antony effort the only early shot on target.
It took until past the half-hour before a disciplined Forest tested Heaton. Brennan Johnson skipped between Casemiro and Martínez and into the United box, though opted for power over placement, firing straight at the veteran keeper. Antony responded when a United corner was flicked to the edge of the Forest penalty area, though his sweet, rising effort cleared Wayne Hennessey’s crossbar.
Forest had another good chance before halftime: Johnson squirmed into space and crossed for Emmanuel Dennis, though the Nigerian’s goalbound volley was blocked by his own teammate Sam Surridge. At the other end, Weghorst glanced a teasing Casemiro cross goalwards, though his effort flicked the base of the post with Hennessey stranded.
The second half begun with little action, save for an unsuccessful Weghorst penalty appeal and a half-chance for Garnacho from an improbable angle. Ten Hag responded with a triple substitution: Garnacho, Weghorst and Antony were all withdrawn, with Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and the lesser-spotted Jadon Sancho chucked on in their place.
The subs did the job, seeing the tie off with a fourth aggregate goal in the final 20 minutes. It came in suitably scrappy fashion. A terrible Martial pass was snuffed out by a Forest defender, only to rebound into the Frenchman’s path to be stabbed into the bottom corner of the Forest goal.
A quick-fire fifth was even less polished. Bruno Fernandes’s dinked cross was shinned back across the six-yard box by Rashford, and shinned into an open goal by the onrushing Fred. United’s two goals were only as pretty as a fairly ugly match, though ten Hag won’t mind: he’s off to Wembley for his first cup final as United manager.