Nottingham Forest achieved their first victory in the last 29 years against Manchester United, concluding 2023 on a bitter note for Erik ten Hag’s team.
Nottingham, England – Morgan Gibbs-White scored the winning goal in the 82nd minute as Nottingham Forest secured their first-ever Premier League victory over Manchester United in the last 29 years, concluding 2023 on a bitter note for Erik ten Hag’s team.
It seemed as if Marcus Rashford had salvaged a point for the visitors after capitalizing on a mistake by Forest goalkeeper Matt Turner 12 minutes from time, ending his more than six-hour wait for a Premier League goal.
However, after Turner redeemed himself with an excellent save to deny Christian Eriksen, Forest launched a counter-attack, and Gibbs-White delivered the decisive blow from a precise cross from former United forward Anthony Elanga.
After a lackluster first half, Nicolas Dominguez opened the scoring as new manager Nuno Espirito Santo guided Forest to consecutive victories for only the second time since their promotion to the top flight.
“What we are trying to do is to create an idea. The talent is there, so it’s the confidence to play,” said Forest manager Nuno, who replaced Steve Cooper earlier this month.
“It’s our responsibility in how we defend. But they have to believe in the idea. The spaces were there, and it’s a credit to the players because we have only been here for 10 days, and they are the ones really working very hard.”
A Tough Night for Ten Hag
It was another challenging night for Ten Hag, and it unfolded in front of Sir Dave Brailsford, who will have a significant influence on United’s on-field operations following Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s 25% purchase of the club.
It was United’s 14th defeat of a dreadful campaign, their highest number of losses before the end of a year since 1930-31.
United has suffered four defeats in December alone and could end this round of matches in ninth place, just three points ahead of Chelsea.
Another Difficult Night for Antony
Ten Hag told Brailsford he did not want to speak to him yet due to the packed Christmas schedule but mentioned that he feels Ineos is eager to work with him.
These discussions are likely to happen in January when United only has a single Premier League game. However, whether Ten Hag will want to disrupt preparations before a potentially perilous FA Cup third-round tie against League One Wigan on January 8th is open to debate.
It is evident that one of the issues Brailsford and fellow Ineos representative Jean Claude-Blanc need to address urgently is recruitment. There is no greater evidence of where United has gone wrong in that department than Brazilian winger Antony.
It has been 16 months since Ten Hag pushed to sign Antony, with United eventually paying £81m for the winger, making him their second most expensive signing after Paul Pogba.
Sitting together in the directors’ box, neither Brailsford nor Sir Alex Ferguson could possibly have thought that his latest performance justified the fee.
The winger’s supporters argue that he does not shy away from hard work and can be trusted to track back.
While that may be true, it overlooks the fact that there is little end product from him.
Towards the end of the first half, Rashford presented him with a shooting opportunity inside the penalty area. However, before he could decide how to manipulate the position into a chance, Forest defenders surrounded him, and the chance disappeared.
A few moments later, he seemed poised to take on his opponent at the touchline. However, stuck between going down the line or cutting inside as he prefers, he did nothing, and the ball ended up going out for a throw.
When he was replaced by Amad Diallo after 54 minutes, it meant Antony had failed to score or set up a goal in 21 consecutive appearances.
Amad cost £19m and did not do much to justify that smaller fee either. However, the Ivorian youngster has only just returned from a serious knee injury, so judgment on him should be reserved.
Agony to Ecstasy for Keeper Turner
The relief on the face of Forest keeper Turner at the final whistle was evident for all to see.
The United States international had a shaky start to the game, with a couple of wayward passes putting the hosts in trouble as he attempted to follow Nuno’s demand to play out from the back.
His propensity to misplace passes ultimately proved costly as Rashford celebrated an equalizer where the blame lay squarely at his door.
An attempt to play out of his area was intercepted by the alert Alejandro Garnacho, who found Rashford, and he applied a superb first-time finish.
Anguish soon turned to relief for the former Arsenal man, though. His save from Eriksen allowed him to start a counter-attack that ended with Gibbs-White driving home his second goal of the season.
“At halftime, the manager said we needed to be more aggressive with and without the ball,” Gibbs-White told BBC Sport.
“I am delighted to help the boys get the three points. I saw the space was there, stayed composed, breathed, and picked my spot. Thankfully, it went in. I believe this club is really creating history.
As Gibbs-White raced to celebrate with the Trent End faithful, at the other end of the field, Turner was repeatedly punching the air.
He still had one more bit of work to do, repelling a deflected Bruno Fernandes effort as United pushed forward in desperation. The ruffle of hair from Moussa Niakhate underlined that he had earned a memorable reprieve.
“We had Morgan Gibbs-White [at Wolves] when he was 16, but now he is a different man and the credit must go to Steve Cooper because I have found a different player,” added Nuno.
“He is mature. What we want from him is to be this guy we can rely on and to give him the ball because he is so talented.”