Marcus Rashford continued his rich run of form as Manchester United closed into the Premier League’s top four with a 3-0 win over Nottingham Forest.
Rashford, fresh from an impressive World Cup campaign with England, scored the opener and set up the second for Anthony Martial as United moved to within a point of fourth-placed Tottenham.
He was off the field by the time Fred added late brilliance to the victory spearheaded by Rashford.
The 25-year-old has been back to his best this season, scoring his eighth goal in 13 appearances for club and country, looking a real threat throughout the game.
The way he combined with Martial and Antony in attack suggests United will do just fine without the late Cristiano Ronaldo.
And with the possibility of additions next month, Erik ten Hag’s side will make a real push to break into those Champions League places and stay in them through the second half of the season.
For Forest, who had a goal disallowed by VAR, this game went slightly better than the last time they played United when they lost 8-1 in 1998, but they remain in the bottom three and with Chelsea to get to New Year’s Day easier it won’t be.
Having conceded six at Manchester City and five at Arsenal, Steve Cooper’s side will have arrived at Old Trafford with a sense of trepidation about what was to come.
They had a taste of what might be in store as early as the fourth minute when Wayne Hennessey – making his first Premier League start since January – turned a Tyrell Malacia shot onto the post.
The next 15 minutes actually looked promising for Forest as they probed United with no prospect of creating anything and then it all fell apart in the space of four minutes.
The hosts took the lead in the 19th minute with a goal from the training ground as Rashford dived to the front post to meet Christian Eriksen’s low corner and sweep into the far corner to draw level with Eric Cantona on 64 Premier League goals for United.
Just 185 seconds later it was 2-0 as United produced a scintillating counter-attack with Rashford, this time the provider, breaking at pace and then squaring for Martial, whose low shot whizzed through the hands of Hennessey, who will not be so eager. to see any repeats.
Unfortunately for Forest, VAR officer Robert Madley saw plenty of replays of the goal Forest thought they had scored five minutes before the break.
Renan Lodi whipped in an inviting cross which Ryan Yates looked to head into the far corner.
However, Madley only checked for a handball on Yates when his arm was outstretched and then when it became clear that the ball deflected Willy Boly on its way in, he ruled that the defender was in an offside position and Forest were denied a first away goals. since August.
Forest needed a goal early in the second half and they threatened briefly, but it was United who continued to create the meaningful chances.
Rashford was at the heart of another lightning break, feeding Bruno Fernandes who teed up Antony, but Hennessey made a good save.
The goalkeeper, playing his first game since being sent off for Wales at the World Cup, was kept busy and went some way to atone for that first-half mistake by making a string of stops to keep it at two.
He denied Rashford with his feet, kept out Martial with a smart stop and then tipped over Casemiro’s chipped effort.
It looked like Ten Hag’s men would have to settle for two, but Fred killed off the game in the final five minutes, coolly converting from Casemiro’s smart pass.
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