Manchester United look on course to reach the EFL Cup final after beating Nottingham Forest 3-0 in the semi-final first leg.
It was an entertaining affair between two Premier League sides, but the early solo run and finish from Marcus Rashford set the tone for the night.
A first goal of his Man United career for Wout Weghorst and a late volley from Bruno Fernandes put United in control of this tie ahead of next week’s second leg.
It was quite an open contest, as both sides looked to pin the other back. The home side thought they had levelled the tie after Rashford’s opener when Sam Surridge slotted home into the bottom right corner, but VAR ruled the goal to be offside.
That was the best it got for Forest, as their chances failed to test the back four and goalkeeper of Manchester United.
Steve Cooper’s men have it all to do in next week’s second leg, while Erik ten Hag is likely to use the game to give some of the fringe players a chance to play.
Ahead of next week’s game, here are three things we clearly learnt about Manchester United in their win over Forest…
Marcus Rashford crucial
Rashford looks to have brought back that form he showed in the World Cup for England with him to United, as the striker made it 10 goals in 10 games since United returned to action.
The 25-year-old went on a fantastic solo run after he received the ball from Casemiro, beating two Forest defenders before slotting the ball past a helpless Wayne Hennessey.
Since ten Hag’s arrival as United manager, Rashford has once again rediscovered his football, as last season he looked like someone who had a lot going on beyond football and it was affecting him on the pitch.
Not only has he been in form these past couple of months, but Rashford has looked like a different player ever since ten Hag came through the door at Old Trafford.
The 25-year-old has now got 18 goals in all competitions this season, and as the games go on, he is showing how important he is for this United side. Rashford has become a crucial player for ten Hag, and if the Englishman keeps performing like this, he could have a big say not only in this EFL Cup but on United’s whole campaign.
Ten Hag once again showed how important this competition is for him, as he named a very strong side to compete against Forest.
United are heading into a period where they are playing a game every three days, so you couldn’t complain if ten Hag decides to rotate a large part of his team for this game, even if it is a cup semi-final.
However, the Dutchman has made it clear how important he feels it is for United to end their trophy drought, and considering the EFL Cup is the first trophy you can win this season, he doesn’t want to let it slip by.
Ten Hag was unable to call upon Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial, as they were ill and injured, respectively. The United boss also opted to rest Raphael Varane for this game, but apart from that, he went with his strongest possible XI.
As the game panned out, it meant ten Hag could take some of his big hitters off before the final whistle, but like previous rounds, he went with his strongest side as he wanted to make sure they reach the EFL Cup final.
The Dutchman managed to claim his first goal for the Red Devils in last night’s win, but as well as getting on the scoresheet, it is also clear to see how important ten Hag sees the striker being this season.
Since Weghorst joined United, he has started all three games he’s been available for, and while he has only scored one goal, he’s still had a big impact on the team.
The 30-year-old’s presence at the top end of the pitch allows players like Rashford and Antony to stay wide for United and leave Weghorst to command the centre of attack.
While the Dutchman has also proved his ability on the ball and link-up play is not to be laughed at, as he did numerous times last night and on Sunday against Arsenal, he brought others into the game by holding on to the ball and allowing runners behind him.
The striker might not score a bundle of goals while at United, but if he keeps doing the dirty side of the game and keeps staying in and around the box, he could do a lot better than many thought when he joined the club.