Manchester United will take a 3-0 lead into the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest next week, having already put one foot in the Wembley final next month.
Marcus Rashford and Wout Weghorst each scored in the first half for Erik ten Hag’s team, who were not always at their best over the 90 minutes, with Bruno Fernandes adding a third late on.
In their first trip to the City Ground since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored four times in an 8-1 win in 1999, the visitors made a strong start when Rashford ran with the ball from inside his own half, cut inside as he reached the penalty and finished calmly with only six minutes on the clock.
Forest appeared to be struggling with their shape – essentially a midfield diamond that offered little width in midfield and insufficient protection of the full-backs. It showed because United continued to threaten from out wide and Antony had a couple of chances he missed the target with.
A Forest goal against the run of play midway through the first half was ruled out by VAR – Sam Surridge’s knee was marginally offside – but it showed a potential danger on the break.
Despite the disappointment of seeing a goal chalked off, it seemed to give the hosts some hope and a head of steam as Gustavo Scarpa forced David de Gea into a save with a precision volley. Brennan Johnson’s pace also posed a threat and quickly gave him two good chances he couldn’t take.
Both teams were having the opportunities to score and a slick United move put Antony through on goal, with the Brazilian unable to lift it over the onrushing Wayne Hennessey.
But Hennessey was culpable when United got some breathing right at the end of the first half. He didn’t deal with Antony’s volley properly, parrying the ball back into the danger area and Weghorst was there to smartly mop up the rebound.
The Forest goalkeeper began the second half better, saving at close-range to deny Weghorst a second. But he could only look and hope as Christian Eriksen curled a beauty of an effort towards goal from the edge of the box that came back off the crossbar.
Eriksen’s influence on the game grew as the minutes ticked by and while Forest did have a chance when Morgan Gibbs-White picking Casemiro’s pocket in a dangerous area, only to lash the resultant shot off target, United were increasingly in control and stifled the hosts.
The late third goal from Fernandes was a fine strike from the United skipper, driving a low shot beyond Hennessey after Forest had failed to deal with the initial danger of ball into the box.
GK: Wayne Hennessey – 5/10 – Made some decent saves but didn’t cover himself in glory for either of United’s first half goals.
RB: Serge Aurier – 5/10 – Running back towards his own goal at no great speed miles off the pace as Rashford put United into a lead.
CB: Joe Worrall – 5/10 – Easily beaten by Rashford for the early goal.
CB: Scott McKenna – 5/10 – Didn’t much lose the ball but what does it matter when three goals went in?
LB: Renan Lodi – 5/10 – Antony had more chances than Forest probably would have been happy with.
CM: Danilo – 7/10 – Always careful not to lose possession cheaply and did plenty to win it back.
CM: Remo Freuler – 5/10 – Struggled to make much impact on the game.
CM: Gustavo Scarpa – 7/10 – Impressed in phases, particuarly with a well-controlled volley that needed De Gea to save it.
AM: Morgan Gibbs-White – 7/10 – At the heart of Forest’s good spells in the game. Cruelly forced off with what appeared to be an injury.
ST: Brennan Johnson – 6/10 – Pace made him a threat, particularly on the break. Had a few chances that he might think he could have done better with.
ST: Sam Surridge – 5/10 – Had the ball in the net in the first half, only to see VAR flag up his offside knee. Didn’t otherwise see very much of it.
SUB: Jack Colback (59′ for Danilo) – 6/10
SUB: Jesse Lingard (64′ for Scarpa) – 6/10
SUB: Emmanuel Dennis (64′ for Surridge) – 5/10
SUB: Neco Williams (73′ for Lodi) – 6/10
SUB: Lewis O’Brien (73′ for Gibbs-White) – 6/10
Steve Cooper – 5/10 – The players looked a little uncertain of the shape in the first half and the gaps out wide in those crucial stages really favoured United. His team were simply too open.
GK: David de Gea – 7/10 – Not a quiet night by any means.
RB: Aaron Wan-Bissaka – 6/10 – Almost got burned for pace by Johnson at one stage but was otherwise pretty solid.
CB: Victor Lindelof – 6/10 – Probably guilty of leaving too much space when Surridge scored the offside goal – he got away with it on that occasion.
CB: Lisandro Martinez – 8/10 – Stooped low to put his head where it hurt in the first half and put himself about physically in pursuit of the clean sheet.
LB: Tyrell Malacia – 7/10 – Tenacious and energetic.
CM: Casemiro – 7/10 – Returned to the base of the United midfield after being suspended at the weekend. His usual performance.
CM: Christian Eriksen – 8/10 – Unlucky to see a great shot come back off the bar and began to exert more dominance in the second half.
RM: Antony – 6/10 – Lots of good touches and promising interplay. Still lacked a clinical edge as multiple chances went begging.
AM: Bruno Fernandes – 7/10 – Took risks on the ball but made a few chances and was eventually rewarded with a goal at the end.
LM: Marcus Rashford – 8/10 – A goal six minutes in. Stretched Forest so well in his left channel and came off inside an hour with his job for the night done.
ST: Wout Weghorst – 7/10 – Off the mark in United colours with a well-taken poacher’s finish.
SUB: Alejandro Garnacho (57′ for Rashford) – 6/10
SUB: Fred (71′ for Eriksen) – 6/10
SUB: Facundo Pellistri (71′ for Antony) – 5/10
SUB: Anthony Elanga (85′ for Weghorst) – N/A
Erik ten Hag – 8/10 – The starting XI reflected how serious he is taking this competition as an opportunity to end Uniteds six-year trophy drought. But he was also able to rotate once his team had a healthy lead and were in control.