Manchester United 2 Nottingham Forest 0
Martial 73, Fred 76
[Highlights, Post-Match Reaction Below]
Erik ten Hag defied expectations, for the second game in a row, by fielding a strong side. However, it was the attacking changes in the second half that won the game for a comfortably dominant United. Forest may have planned to play for pride and a result on the night, but in the end, they left with neither. It was all too easy for United, and Forest players must feel they could’ve given it more of a go.
After a few minutes of the first half, it was clear Forest had no intention of trying to win the tie. They were playing for a draw and hoping for a chance on the break or perhaps a set piece. United, with three-quarters of the possession, weren’t especially in a hurry. They played fluid one and two-touch football that was easy on the eye but without great urgency. A three-goal lead will do that. The first half-hour was like a training game, and Forest were content to play the role of traffic cones. United had a few half-chances. Garnacho and Antony were lively. Casemiro had a header cleared by the keeper’s feet. In truth, they weren’t breaking a sweat. Forest had their first big moment as they won a throw-in deep in the United half. Johnson received the ball and out-muscled Martinez before hitting his shot straight at Heaton. Ten minutes later, they had another shot. That was their entire attacking contribution to the game.
United ended the first half strongly. Casemiro curled a beautiful cross in from the right. Weghorst headed past the keeper only for the ball to come back off the post. United were far superior, but in some parallel universe Forest could’ve been two up.
Forest were even more passive in the second half. They were never going to win four-nil as their supporters jokingly sang but they barely put four meaningful passes together all half. Ten Hag gave it until about the hour mark to make changes with the attacking trio of Sancho, Rashford and Martial on for Antony, Garnacho and Weghorst. United went for the kill. First, Fernandes flashed wide from a Martial cutback. Then Casemiro’s first-time pass found Martial in space. With red shirts either side of him and up against just two forest defenders, he ran at the Forest box before slipping it inside for Rashford. Rashford was tackled as he shot, and it deflected back across the face of the goal to Martial, who volleyed it home left-footed low and to the right. Moments later, the second goal came. Martial found Sancho who fed the ball out wide for Fernandes. Fernandes curled a pass to Rashford at the far post. He side-footed it back across the goal and Fred turned it in from close range.
Manchester United now have the chance of their first trophy in six years. Newcastle will put up a lot more fight than Forest.
Heaton, Wan-Bissaka, Martinez, Varane, Shaw, Fred, Casemiro, Fernandes, Antony, Garnacho, Weghorst.
Subs: De Gea, Lindelof, Maguire, Malacia, Mainoo, Pellistri, Martial, Rashford, Sancho.
Hennessey, Williams, McKenna, Boly, Lodi, Freuler, Scarpa, Mangala, Lingard, Johnson, Surridge.
Subs: G Shelvey, Cook, Worrall, Mighten, Aurier, Dennis, Danilo, Hammond, Osong.