Talking Points: Forest 2 United 1

Saturday 30 December 2023 19:51

Manchester United were condemned to a 2-1 defeat by Nottingham Forest on Saturday evening, despite Marcus Rashford's leveller temporarily looking like it would earn a return of some sorts for Erik ten Hag's men.

After a first half of little action, the contest sparked into life when Nicolas Dominguez fired the home team in front in the opening minutes of the second 45.

Nuno Espirito Santo's side were on their way to a first home win under the new manager's tenure, until Rashford's 78th-minute strike briefly appeared to stifle that, but Gibbs-White would have the final say shortly after, with an effort that was enough to earn Forest all three points.

It means a disappointing defeat closes out the calendar year for Ten Hag's side. Here are eight talking points following the clash in the East Midlands...

Report: Nottingham Forest 2 United 1


The Reds end 2023 on a low, despite Marcus Rashford finding the net.


United were limited to very little going forward in the first half, but would have felt well in the game at the interval, particularly as Andre Onana had not had much to do at the other end. Rashford cancelling out Dominguez's opener was a timely response in the second period, with 12 minutes plus added time to play, but the Reds unfortunately had nothing to show for the efforts at The City Ground come full-time. It is a particularly disappointing result to take off the back of the buoyant comeback win over Aston Villa just four days earlier.


Fine margins are often associated with being the difference in football, and although United were not at our best going forward, the Reds can imagine what might have been had the sequence of play for the winning goal ended differently. Shortly before Gibbs-White planted a curling strike into the bottom corner from the edge of the penalty area, Christian Eriksen was presented with an opportunity of similar ilk, which was parried away by Matt Turner, setting the home side on their way with the game's decisive foray up the pitch.


One particular positive on the evening for the Reds was Marcus getting back among the goals, albeit for no reward in the end. Our no.10 led the line in the absence of Rasmus Hojlund and made no mistake with a first-time finish, after Alejandro Garnacho had capitalised on a defensive error. Although it means little in the wider context, the equaliser continued a run that has seen him register a goal involvement in every one of his five appearances against Forest.


Ten Hag told reporters on Friday that he expects to have multiple first-team players back from injury after the turn of the year, but just shy of January, the boss was able to reintroduce Amad to the fold following the long-term knee injury he picked up in pre-season. The young winger had been yet to play a competitive game under the Dutchman, having spent his debut term on a successful loan spell in the Championship with Sunderland, but was back in the matchday squad and introduced as United looked for a spark before the hour mark. The Ivory Coast international, not going to the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations in his home country, will look to build on a cameo in which he looked lively on the ball from the right flank.


Amad was brought on for Antony in the 54th minute and the Brazilian picking up a problem may have been the reason for his withdrawal. The television cameras appeared to show our no.21 clutching the area around his left hamstring while on the bench, after coming off, and Ten Hag may be able to provide an update on Antony's condition in his post-match press conference.

Hojlund out of Forest encounter


Rasmus missed out on the chance to build on his Boxing Day winner.


The former United forward received a warm reception from both sets of fans before kick-off in what was a nice moment, before his energetic showing in Forest's attack. The Sweden winger is, of course, a graduate of our Academy and was a member of Ten Hag's team last season before his summer move to the Nottinghamshire outfit. He was a late substitute in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford in August, but was given the platform to properly show his qualities against his former side by new boss Nuno, following an impressive performance in their Boxing Day victory at Newcastle. He was involved in both goals and claimed the assist for the winner.


The big pre-match news was the absence of Rasmus Hojlund from United's matchday squad, off the back of his first Premier League goal, against Aston Villa, last time out. Our no.11 was ruled out with illness, shortly before the team news was announced, and replaced in the XI by Antony, as United's only change. The Reds have a nine-day gap before our next outing, the third-round Emirates FA Cup tie away to Wigan Athletic, so we can hope that he can recover in that time and be available for the visit to the DW Stadium.


The City Ground defeat was our 66th and final competitive match of what has been an action-packed calendar year for Ten Hag's team. Although the trip was not the one that our travelling contingent in the lower tier of the Bridgford Stand would have wanted, their remarkable support was evident throughout the 90 minutes, and was appreciated by both players and staff at full-time.