After a goalless first half, substitute Anthony Martial opened the scoring before Fred added a second shortly afterwards to send Erik ten Hag’s team to the final and in with a chance of ending a trophy drought that stretches back to 2017.
1. Ten Hag is on course for a dream first season
When Ten Hag took over as manager in the summer, the aim was to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League. If you had offered fans a trophy on top of that, they would have accepted in a flash and, halfway through the Dutchman’s debut campaign, that’s exactly where they’re heading.
Sitting fourth in the Premier League, level on points with third-place Newcastle, they’re on course to regain their place in the Champions League and after Wednesday’s win over Forest, they’ve got a Wembley final to look forward to at the end of February.
Newcastle, having a good season themselves, stand in the way of United’s first piece of silverware since 2017 but to win the trophy would give Ten Hag something tangible to show for the progress that has been made since he became manager. His time at Old Trafford, however long it lasts, will be judged on whether he can win the Premier League and Champions League but the Carabao Cup is a good place to start for a club starved of success.
2. Forest can turn to Premier League survival bid
Forest didn’t arrive at Old Trafford with much hope of overturning the 3-0 deficit from the first leg but they at least gave it a go. Brennan Johnson had a good chance saved by Tom Heaton and just before half-time Emmanuel Dennis‘ shot was blocked by teammate Sam Surridge when it looked to be heading in. They really needed both of those attempts to go in to stand any chance of making it to Wembley.
Already out of the FA Cup, attention will turn to staying in the Premier League and building on a run of eight points from four games which has lifted Steve Cooper’s side to 13th in the table. Still only four points above the relegation places, they are not out of trouble yet but they have done enough to show they are capable of staying up.
Jonjo Shelvey, Keylor Navas and Felipe all arrived on deadline day to bolster the survival bid and Cooper should have enough quality available to ensure Premier League football again next season. Even in a losing cause against United, there were positives for Cooper ahead of a crucial league game against Leeds on Sunday.
3. Santo feels love from crowd in return
It’s been more than three months since Jadon Sancho has featured for United but after time away from the club to focus on work on both mental and physical issues, he was back in the squad against Forest.
The first time he went to warm up, he was greeted with chants of “Sancho, Sancho” and the cheers were even louder when he came on in the second half. The support around Old Trafford was so vocal that he brought a smile out of Ten Hag, who tapped Sancho on the head to make sure he was listening.
With injuries starting to mount up, Ten Hag needs as many players available as possible — particularly in attacking positions — and it will be a relief to see Sancho back on the pitch. He has not had a consistent run of good form since moving to Old Trafford from Borussia Dortmund but this represents something of a fresh start.
He’s coming back into a team that is playing well and winning which should make it easier to get back to his best. His first United appearance since Oct. 22 is a positive step.
Best and worst performers
Marcus Rashford, ST, Man United: Even when he’s not starting, he’s still impacting games and once he came on in the second half he was involved in both goals.
BEST: Tom Heaton, GK, Man United: He doesn’t get many games but he was alert enough to make good saves from Johnson and Danilo.
BEST: Anthony Martial, ST, Man United: Back in the squad after another injury layoff, Martial looked sharp when he came on and scored after only nine minutes on the pitch.
Sam Surridge, ST, Forest: He worked hard but might regret not getting out of the way quicker when Dennis’ shot was arrowing towards the corner with the score at 0-0.
Wout Weghorst, ST, Man United: The big striker hit the post with a header but his style isn’t suited to the quick, incisive way Ten Hag wants his team to attack.
Serge Aurier, DF, Forest: Not that it changed the tie but it was Aurier’s mistake at the back post which allowed Marcus Rashford to square for Fred to tap in United’s second.
Highlights and notable moments
A nifty pass from Bruno Fernandes to set up Fred’s tap-in for Manchester United.
This pass from Bruno to setup Man United’s second goal 😱 pic.twitter.com/CLaGpKBDUR
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 1, 2023
And who did Fernandes pick that up from?
Bruno Fernandes on his trivela pass against Nottingham Forest 🥶 pic.twitter.com/vOLdFhEjL6
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 1, 2023
After the match: What the players/managers said
Manchester United’s Luke Shaw, to Sky Sports: “It’s extremely pleasing but there’s no point going to a final if we don’t win it. It’s where we want to be. … We want to get this club back to where it should be which is winning trophies. Newcastle are an extremely good team but it’s a big moment for us in where we want to go.”
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag, to Sky Sports: “The first half wasn’t great to be honest. I thought it was professional but too slow and we didn’t create too many chances. We allowed them to. The second half was much better, more tempo and we made some good goals.
Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper, to Sky Sports: “We should also remember this is the first time in the semifinals for over 30 years. Loads of clubs would have loved to be in our position over the last two games.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
– Manchester United advance to their first Carabao Cup final since 2016-17, the season they won it along with the Europa League. The club is currently in its longest title drought in 40 years.
– Manchester United’s home-game winning streak (12 across all competitions) is the longest active streak among teams in Europe’s top five leagues this season. The unbeaten run is now 14 games, tied with Newcastle, Napoli, and Paris-Germain.
Manchester United: Before they get to the Feb. 26 final against Newcastle for the Carabao Cup, several key matches in both the Premier League and in Europa League. They welcome Crystal Palace on Saturday and then a home-and-away with Leeds United. A trip to Barcelona in the Europa League on Feb. 16, then Leicester City on Feb. 19 and the home tilt with Barça on Feb. 23. A busy February indeed.
Nottingham Forest: The campaign to stave off relegation starts in earnest with a home match against Leeds on Sunday, before a trip to Fulham the next week.