Manchester United’s victory over Nottingham Forest did not go according to plan for their manager, Erik ten Hag. Conceding two goals within the first four minutes was certainly not the desired outcome. However, fueled by the support of the Old Trafford crowd, United managed to mount a comeback that Ten Hag hopes will inject some much-needed life into their underwhelming start to the season.
Despite their lackluster performances, United has miraculously only lost one of their first three games. It remains a mystery how they managed to secure six points when they easily could have had none. The question lingers as to whether their thrilling 3-2 win over Forest is a positive result that will kick-start their campaign or merely a band-aid covering up deeper issues.
Ten Hag, choosing to focus on the positives, reflected on the game, saying, “We stuck to the plans and had the belief to turn it around, and I think we played very good football and scored very good goals. It’s a marker, absolutely. We’ve seen this team can bounce back.”
Right from the beginning, it seemed that United was determined to make a bad week even worse. Forest found the back of the net twice within three minutes and 47 seconds, exposing United’s defensive vulnerabilities. These calamitous goals reflected the home side’s shambolic start.
Although Christian Eriksen managed to pull a goal back for United, Forest could have easily regained their two-goal advantage if not for a fortunate deflection. As the game progressed, it became apparent that United’s comeback was hardly convincing.
Defensively, United appears vulnerable, exacerbated by the injuries to left-backs Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia. To make matters worse, center-back Raphaël Varane was forced off at halftime against Forest, leaving Victor Lindelöf to replace him. These defensive weaknesses have been a cause for concern and have put additional pressure on the team.
In midfield, there were instances where Casemiro seemed overwhelmed, as he did in previous matches against Wolves and Tottenham Hotspur. Antony also struggled to make an impact and was fortunate to remain on the pitch until the 85th minute. With Rasmus Hojlund still injured and Marcus Rashford more effective on the left, Ten Hag had no choice but to field Anthony Martial as the center forward. Unfortunately, Martial contributed very little before being substituted early. This lackluster performance was not unexpected, considering Martial has not completed a full 90 minutes in a Premier League game since January 2021.
Following the narrow victory over Forest, the manager of the opposing team, Steve Cooper, expressed his surprise at the quick decisions made by the referee, Stuart Attwell. The blocked shot, the red card, and the penalty all had significant impacts on the game. Cooper’s remarks highlighted the importance of referees taking their time to make such game-defining decisions.
Despite their thrilling win over Forest, Manchester United’s start to the season leaves many unanswered questions. Their performances have been lackluster, and it is unclear whether the team is slowly finding their stride or if they are simply not up to par.
The upcoming match against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium will be telling of United’s true capabilities. It will provide insight into whether they will have to fight for a top-four finish or if their aspirations can be set even higher.
Manchester United’s unsettling start to the season has left fans and pundits alike with numerous questions. The team’s defensive vulnerabilities, midfield struggles, and offensive dilemmas have all been exposed. While the thrilling victory over Nottingham Forest showcased their ability to bounce back, it remains to be seen if United can sustain consistent performances and address their weaknesses. The upcoming matches will undoubtedly shed further light on the true potential of this Manchester United side.