After Morgan Gibbs-White curled in Nottingham Forest’s fantastic winning goal with 82 minutes played, he celebrated by soaking up the adulation from the Trent End and putting his index fingers to his ears.
It is a tactic Erik ten Hag may need to utilise to shutout the never-ending noise surrounding his position and this flaky and unpredictable Manchester United side. It will only increase after this, a 14th defeat of the season across all . The last time they lost as many games before the turn of the year was 1930-31. Marcus Rashford cancelled out Nicolás Domínguez’s effort, giving United hope of staging another late comeback, but Gibbs-White wrapped his right foot around the ball from the edge of the box, in effect throwing another log on United’s fire.
Aston Villa punished United for their sluggish start at Old Trafford on Boxing Day, racing into a two-goal lead, but their first-half performance here, despite the teams heading in goalless, was equally flat and hardly anymore reassuring. Oddly, United’s vigour seemed to stem from a 35-year-old jobbing defender in Jonny Evans. The centre-back provided United with a cartoonish energy; flying into headers, missing headers, threading passes into midfield, hacking the ball upfield. At one point he made amends for a failed clearance by making a raking slide tackle on the former United academy youngster Anthony Elanga. Aaron Wan-Bissaka had United’s sole first-half shot on 33 minutes, his strike deflecting harmlessly into the gloves of Matt Turner, the Forest goalkeeper.
Manchester United’s hopes of a fresh dawn after their comeback against Aston Villa were soon ended as a resurgent Nottingham Forest side picked up their second win under new manager Nuno Espírito Santo.
Both of these teams wanted to end the year with another positive result and a chance to build. For Nuno it was to get that first home win of his tenure and add to the impressive away victory at St James’ Park on Boxing Day, while United wanted to show that the comeback against Aston Villa was the marker of a new start after news of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s investment last week.
Sir David Brailsford was at the City Ground, seated next to Sir Alex Ferguson, the past and the future casting their eye over the present, and based on this evidence it is — as has been shown many times this season — a project that is going to need a lot of work.
During the 3-2 Boxing Day win over Villa, Ten Hag had finally found a forward system that clicked and brought out the best of each of his attackers. Alejandro Garnacho thrived down the right and Rashford in his preferred left-wing position, but illness to Rasmus Hojlund disrupted Ten Hag’s plans.
Looking on miserably from the directors’ box at the City Ground were two figures who represent Manchester United’s glorious past and their future.
What would Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Dave Brailsford have made of this latest embarrassment of a performance, which only emphasised the mammoth task facing Sir Jim Ratcliffe ahead of 2024?
Brailsford is the man overseeing the audit for a rebuilding job, and all the recent examples of mismanagement were clear to see here from haphazard recruitment, a failing manager and a non-existent midfield.
Ten Hag is convinced that Ratcliffe’s Ineos group wants him to remain as manager, yet the pressure is building and this will not be allowed to continue for much longer.
Take nothing away from Nottingham Forest and their new head coach, Nuno Espirito Santo, who deserved their victory and ended a run of four successive home defeats.
Nuno’s impact has already been considerable since he replaced Steve Cooper and there is little chance of this team spending too long near the relegation zone.
Morgan Gibbs-White fired Nottingham Forest to a first victory against Manchester United since 1994 as Erik ten Hag’s side ended a topsy-turvy year with a whimper.
The Red Devils had won the sides’ last 11 meetings in all competitions, but new boss Nuno Espirito Santo would celebrate a memorable second win in just five days.
Gibbs-White’s super late strike from the edge of the box wrapped up a memorable 2-1 triumph after Marcus Rashford had capitalised on a terrible Matt Turner pass to cancel out Nicolas Dominguez’s opener.
This was United’s 14th defeat in all competitions this term and a miserable end to the year for a side that were a pale imitation of the one that roared back to beat Aston Villa on Boxing Day.
Match-winner Rasmus Hojlund was absent through illness and Ten Hag’s team underperformed at the City Ground, where a forgettable first half made way for a pulsating second period.
One step forward, two more back. If Erik ten Hag keeps up this pitiful dance then he will soon shift any Christmas excess, but he might not be Manchester United manager for much longer.
This week, Ten Hag insisted that Ineos, the club’s new minority shareholders, are looking forward to working with him. That’s probably dependent on certain factors that look shaky as United end the year.
Nottingham Forest were one team who United dominated home and away last season, but nothing good lasts long around this squad. If the home win over Aston Villa demonstrated United’s stomach for recovery, there’s only so many times you can hope to roll a dice and get the number you’re after.
Ten Hag’s team did indeed play when they were behind again, although they were gifted a goal by a goalkeeper in Matt Turner who we may not see again in Forest red for some time. The January transfer window opens shortly and Evangelos Marinakis will be seeking someone who can kick the ball without shinning it up in the air or passing it to an opponent.
Sir Dave Brailsford may as well get used to it now. This is what watching Manchester United is all about these days: one step forward and one step back. Hope replaced by a realisation that the biggest club in English football are indeed bang average.
Four days earlier, Brailsford was at Old Trafford on Boxing Day to see United mount a stirring second-half comeback to beat Aston Villa 3-2.
But if Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s right-hand man thought for one moment that it was the norm, here was a sobering visit to the City Ground to bring him back down to earth.
Sat alongside Sir Alex Ferguson, he saw United slump to their first Premier League defeat against Nottingham Forest in 29 years.
It was also Forest’s second win under new manager Nuno Espirito Santo who has now beaten Newcastle and Manchester United in the space of five days. A richly deserved victory that came courtesy of two excellent strikes from Nicolas Dominguez and Morgan Gibbs-White, who hit the winner in the 82nd minute shortly after Marcus Rashford had equalised.
Manchester United proved that their comeback against Aston Villa was merely a blip rather than a turning point as they were beaten by Nottingham Forest.
United showed signs of life by coming from 2-0 down to beat Villa 3-2 four days ago, but returned to their woeful worst at the City Ground. After a forgettable first half, the game came to life when Nicolas Dominguez swept into the bottom corner for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.
The away side had failed to score in their previous three Premier League away games, but were handed a way back into the contest by a terrible Matt Turner pass which allowed Alejandro Garnacho to set up a Marcus Rashford equaliser. United failed to build upon their gift, however, and quickly went behind again, with Morgan Gibbs-White curling in on the counter-attack to pile more pressure on Erik ten Hag. Here are the talking points from the match.
Around 90 minutes before kick-off we were informed of a gift for Antony: Rasmus Hojlund was missing through illness and the Brazilian would take his berth. What an opportunity for him to finally put in a performance to get people off their seats.