Manchester United bounced back twice — from a slow start to this game as well as the season — to beat 10-man Nottingham Forest 3-2 at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Bruno Fernandes had a goal and an assist, while Casemiro and Christian Eriksen also scored for the Red Devils. But a halftime exit for Raphael Varane will be closely watched one week out from a big early-season trip to Arsenal.
The Red Devils conceded goals to Taiwo Awoniyi and Willy Boly in the first four minutes of this one, and trailed 2-1 at the break after Christian Eriksen pulled them to within a goal.
[ WATCH: Premier League on Peacock ]
It was the United midfield, driven by captain Fernandes, that delivered the comeback. Fernandes set up Casemiro’s equalizer and then converted a Marcus Rashford-won penalty to deliver three points to the hungry home crowd.
Forest went down to 10 men through a Joe Worrall ‘last man back’ foul five minutes before Danilo’s foul on Rashford sent Fernandes to the line.
Man Utd improves to two wins and a loss to start the season, while Forest has a win and two losses.
Erik ten Hag had twice started Mason Mount, so an injury to the ex-Chelsea man would’ve led to internal questions about the midfield even if outsiders would’ve thought Mount hadn’t been at his best in the win over Wolves and loss to Spurs.
So the fact that Bruno Fernandes drove the comeback from the tip of the midfield spear while Casemiro and Eriksen ran the game and also chipped in goals? Chef’s kiss.
Raphael Varane’s exit will be monitored closely — we’ll have Ten Hag’s words as soon as they escape his mouth and cling to a microphone — but Victor Lindelof played well in his stead.
The Red Devils still need better center forward play, and Anthony Martial struggled in starting this match, but Rasmus Hojlund’s arrival will be welcomed… presuming it comes soon! –Nicholas Mendola
Forest goes to Chelsea at 10am ET Saturday, while United faces a huge test at Arsenal at 11:30am ET Sept. 3 (Sunday).
Kickoff: 10am ET, Saturday (August 26)
Online: Watch online via NBCSports.com
Here are the thoughts of Man United captain Bruno Fernandes, who scored and assisted against Forest.
Forest boss Steve Cooper was surprised with the 2-0 lead, happy with his team’s effort, and not pleased with the referees (Quotes via the BBC):
“We gave everything, that’s for sure,” Cooper said. “The start was a bit of an obscure one in terms of going 2-nil up for any team. You plan to start well but we didn’t think we’d didn’t think it would go as well as that. It set the tone for the whole game.”
“We knew we’d have to soak up pressure anyway against Manchester United and their richness of players, in terms of but we created chances ourselves. That will be one of the frustrations of the game. We got in really good position to create a goal but again you need luck on your side. It was clear that it wasn’t with the way the game went.”
“The modern refereeing these days, the real top ones, they really take their time over things. It was the opposite today. I’d love to talk more and say what I really think, but I can’t do that.”
Here’s Erik ten Hag, quotes transcribed by the BBC:
“Horror start, but then the character of the team was brilliant. We stayed so calm and so composed, got back into the game. We stick to our belief, stick to our plan, played some good football and scored three good goals. It was a brilliant comeback.
“With all respect to Forest, we can’t allow [those goals]. Easy giveaways. We have to do our jobs and we didn’t in the duels and not running with our opponents. We had a set play and a second unnecessary foul. They get a goal from that. It’s crazy, but sometimes games go like this. As I said, we stayed calm.”
“It’s a marker, absolutely. We’ve seen this team can bounce back, also in a game. If you have such a start, you have to get over it. It’s not easy, but the team did so big compliments to the team.”
It was the Morgan Gibbs-White Show for Forest, while Matt Turner and Taiwo Awoniyi also showed well.
But the game was about Manchester United’s improved midfield play, as life without injured Mason Mount looked better than life with it.
Rasmus Hojlund and Luke Shaw were also missed, but Diogo Dalot did well in place of Shaw at left back.
Manchester United vs Nottingham Forest player ratings (Fotmob.com)
Manchester United vs Nottingham Forest player ratings (Fotmob.com)
The Tricky Trees pushed late but in the end this was a deserved win for the Red Devils.
Manchester United’s first five minutes were very poor and their last 10 a bit anxious, but the Red Devils were superior to their visitors and found the winner they wanted through a stronger midfield.
The xG advantage was a robust 2.92-1.18, shots went 18-9, and Erik ten Hag’s men held 68 percent of the ball.
Arsenal’s next, and the pressure will be immense as United’s first big test of the season is a stung Gunners, who drew Fulham at home on Saturday.
Andre Onana had not yet made a save. He’d watched two goals go past him, to boot.
So his save to concede a corner in the 84th minute is both welcome for his record and quite wonderful.
The ball is headed upper 90 but Onana makes the one-handed save!
Marcus Rashford is 1v1 with Danilo on the right edge of the box, and Danilo has lost that battle.
Rashford is on his way past Danilo and toward goal when the defender catches the forward’s knee.
The invitation is not rejected as Rashford hits the deck, and a penalty awarded to United.
Bruno Fernandes converts past noted penalty-saving enthusiast Matt Turner and the Red Devils have completed the comeback. 3-2 with 14 minutes left and up a man. Erik ten Hag will be relieved.
Bruno Fernandes is behind the Forest back line and Joe Worrall is off balance.
The defender doesn’t want to risk giving Fernandes an unimpeded path to Matt Turner and tries to tumble into the Portuguese.
Fernandes doesn’t miss a chance to hit the deck and VAR does not find that Boly is close enough as a defender to overrule a ‘last man back’ foul.
Worrall is off and Fernandes’ free kick from inside the arc is… played short to Diogo Dalot who did not get the memo. Woof.
Casemiro had that big miss early, and he wasn’t going to miss another.
It’s a training ground free kick that sees the ball played across the pitch and well behind both groups of players.
Sent back into the 18 for Bruno Fernandes, the Portuguese crosses and Casemiro does well to use his body to bring the ball in position to snap inside the post.
A worrying moment for Manchester United, as Victor Lindelof replaced Raphael Varane at halftime.
Varane had been good and it’s a strange move from Erik ten Hag unless the Frenchman is injured (and that’s nothing against Lindelof, rather a nod at Varane’s status as one of the best in the world).
Keep an eye on this. Still 2-1 to Forest.
Morgan Gibbs-White nearly has it 3-1 before halftime but it rattles into teammate Taiwo Awoniyi.
The stats tell a story of home control but Forest has two shot attempts, both on target, and both past Andre Onana.
Tricky Trees, indeed.
Man Utd has put nine shots toward Matt Turner’s goal and the pride of Fairfield University has five saves.
xG is about even (1.05-0.82, Man Utd), but the Red Devils have completed almost three times the passes of their visitors.
Gibbs-White was shown a yellow for time-wasting before the break, and Forest’s set-piece taker has both of their assists. His status will matter quite a bit.
Did Casemiro forget whose six-yard box he planted himself?
The Manchester United midfielder is at the back post as a ball bounds toward it.
He’s at close range but it’s only him, the ball, and the goal as he… turns the header wide.
Wow. Huge let-off for Forest. Still 2-1 to the visitors at Old Trafford.
Manchester United has pulled one back!
Bruno Fernandes takes a rip from distance and Matt Turner gets low to his right to parry it away.
The ball cycles back to Marcus Rashford, who cooks Serge Aurier and sends a ball into the congested six-yard box.
Christian Eriksen beats his man to the ball and flicks it past Turner with the outside of his right boot. Clever.
Forest’s lead is down to 2-1.
Not how Erik ten Hag planned this start, yeah?
A free kick from the right is met by former Wolves back Willy Boly, and the center back’s header is good enough for 2-0!
Morgan Gibbs-White has both of the assists, and Ten Hag is fuming.
Forest making this look like the historic rivalry it is!
A Bruno Fernandes corner is cleared and Taiwo Awoniyi is gone.
The ex-Liverpool man blazes down the pitch with just Marcus Rashford to stop him, and the United striker can only get a piece of the ball.
Andre Onana can’t stop it, either, and Forest leads 1-0 very early!
OUT: Felipe (knee), Omar Richards (groin), Wayne Hennessey (knee) | QUESTIONABLE: Ola Aina (groin)
OUT: Rasmus Hojlund (back), Mason Mount (undisclosed), Tyrell Malacia (undisclosed), Tom Heaton (calf), Amad Diallo (knee), Kobbie Mainoo (ankle) | QUESTIONABLE: Harry Maguire (knock)
DISCLAIMER: This site and the products offered are for entertainment purposes only, and there is no gambling offered on this site. This service is intended for adult audiences. No guarantees are made for any specific outcome. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, please call 1-800-GAMBLER. PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.
Ⓒ 2023 NBC Universal