Goals from Taiwo Awoniyi and Willy Boly had stunned United and given Steve Cooper’s side an excellent opportunity to claim their first away win in the Premier League since January but Christian Eriksen pulled one back and those hopes disappeared in the second half.
Casemiro levelled and when Joe Worrall was sent off for a foul on Bruno Fernandes, the momentum proved irresistible. The United captain scored the winner from the penalty spot after Marcus Rashford was fouled by Danilo. A dramatic win for Erik ten Hag’s team.
Three games into the season, United are still struggling for form, but have won two of those matches, nevertheless. Forest, for all that they contributed to this entertaining game, missed the chance to achieve that feat. Their wait for an away win continues.
Manchester United’s vulnerability had been a feature of their opening two fixtures of the season – one won, one lost. But if their supporters had been hoping those issues had been addressed on the training ground they were soon disabused of that notion.
The opening goal was reminiscent of one scored by Demba Ba during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time in charge as Awoniyi raced clear. Marcus Rashford, of all people, was the man chasing him as Andre Onana beat a hapless retreat, stumbling before the striker even shot.
It was comical defending but a special moment for the Nigerian, who became only the third African player to score in seven consecutive Premier League appearances – and the first man to do so in a Forest shirt in the competition’s history, breaking Stan Collymore’s record.
The second goal was just as alarming from a United perspective. Boly knew little about the header from Morgan Gibbs-White’s right-wing corner but that somehow made it worse that he was allowed to meet it. The atmosphere inside Old Trafford was sour at that point.
Eriksen’s goal brought some relief, a clever flick after Rashford had finally found some space in his favoured left channel. And Casemiro should have levelled things when he found himself unmarked with Matt Turner beaten only to head wide of the far post. A sitter.
That would have been harsh on Forest given the frequency with which they troubled their hosts on the counter-attack. Had Gibbs-White picked better passes, had Awoniyi not contrived to block his shot, their third goal would have come before half-time.
Instead, the game flipped back in United’s favour in the second half. A cleverly worked free-kick between Fernandes and Rashford allowed the former to find Casemiro. This time, the Brazilian converted. The pressure switched to Forest as United pushed.
Their predicament only became more difficult when Worrall was sent off. Boly was providing some cover but there could be no certainty that he would have beaten Fernandes to the ball had the Forest captain not hauled his United counterpart to the ground.
The momentum felt irresistible and Danilo’s decision to lunge in on Rashford on the left edge of the penalty box provided Fernandes with the opportunity that Worrall had denied him. The Portuguese blasted the penalty kick past Turner. Turnaround complete.
For all the fine play, Cooper will be concerned. It is an alarming away record and to claim nothing from a game in which they effectively had a two goal head-start suggests they are too open. Even in victory, Ten Hag may reach similar conclusions of his own side.