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Five things noticed: Nottingham Forest 2-1 Manchester United



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Manchester United ended an up-and-down 2023 away on a down against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground with a 2-1 defeat.

The first half was an incredibly boring encounter, United never really threatening Forest much at all.

Kobbie Mainoo was substituted at half-time, and as a result, the second half became more chaotic for Manchester United. Nottingham Forest went 1-0 up through Nicolás Domínguez, and whilst Marcus Rashford would equalise, it would not last long, with Morgan Gibbs-White scoring to put the opposition 2-1 up – a goal that would turn out to be the winner.

Here are five things UtdDistrict noticed from the defeat:

#1: United’s first-half struggles continue

Manchester United have scored just six first half goals in the Premier League this season.

No, that is not a fake stat, just six of Manchester United’s already-few Premier League goals this season have come in the first 45 minutes of their games, and today was the 14th league game this season in which United have failed to score in this period.

Ten Hag’s men have a very real problem in that they do not start games quickly enough, often having to rely on big second-half performances to pull themselves out of trouble. Today’s first half was particularly dire on the offensive front, something the team needs to work on going forwards.

#2: Antony really needs to be replaced

Hardly something new to fans at this point. The fee for Antony was always questionable, but he has been unjustifiably shocking for Manchester United.

Ten Hag’s tactics see Antony get a lot of the ball, but he consistently just does absolutely nothing of substance with it. It feels like every few games fans walk away thinking it’s the worst he has ever played.

The reality is he has just not performed, at all. Probably the worst big-money signing United have ever made, and he must be replaced in some way sooner rather than later.

#3: Amad provides a positive spark

Immediately after replacing Antony, Amad Diallo was involved in Manchester United’s best chance of the game.

He doesn’t exactly have to do a lot to outperform his competition on the right wing currently, but Amad looked genuinely bright in his first competitive appearance for Manchester United since December 2021.

Signed from Atalanta with a lot of promise as a teenager, it would be nice to see Amad get a real run of games in United’s first team after a couple of loans, and today was a solid start. He was perhaps unlucky not to have two assists.

#4: Kobbie Mainoo substitution was a mistake

Kobbie Mainoo was brought off at half time for Scott Mctominay in a substitution that was perplexing for fans, and if it transpires that he was not injured then it will look an even worse decision.

Mainoo was not having his best game in midfield for Manchester United, but his substition saw Ten Hag’s side sacrifice a lot of control, something which favoured Nottingham Forest in the second half.

Giving the home side a chaotic gamestate is just never a good idea, really. Especially for a team like Forest, whose fans are notoriously so loud.

His replacement in Scott Mctominay was a part of a collectively poor defensive sequence that saw Forest go 1-0 up, but given he is not a number six it is hard to blame him. The decision to sub off Kobbie Mainoo was simply poor from Erik ten Hag, and probably cost him the game.

#5: Cutbacks, once again

Manchester United have been particularly poor at defending cutbacks so far this season, there being far too much of a gap between the defensive and midfield line in so many games this season, and it has cost the side a lot of goals.

Today was another example of a team exploiting this weakness of United’s, with both of Forest’s goals coming around the top of United’s 18-yard box, in front of the back four.

United have had an embarrassingly poor season out of possession, consistently being exploited by teams in many different ways. This has been one of United’s single biggest issues and it goes beyond players – it is a structural problem.

There are lots of things that need fixing by Erik ten Hag and his staff, but right now this is one of the biggest and if it doesn’t change then it will continue to cost United heavily in the league.