Steve Cooper’s side were swept aside 2-0 by Aston Villa last weekend, while the Red Devils collapsed in a 2-2 draw with Sevilla in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final.
Only a couple of weeks after being linked to the vacant Tottenham Hotspur job, the axe was hovering above the head of Forest head coach Cooper amid his team’s springtime setbacks, but the under-fire Welshman was given a public pat on the back by owner Evangelos Marinakis ahead of a trip to Villa Park.
Cooper was warned, however, that results must improve immediately, and the Tricky Trees failed in their quest to do so against Unai Emery’s Aston Villa juggernaut, who had goals from Bertrand Traore and Ollie Watkins either side of the half-time whistle to thank last weekend.
A fourth defeat from five Premier League games has pulled Forest right back into the demotion picture in 18th place – although Everton are only enjoying the safety of 17th spot courtesy of a better goal difference – and one significant staff alteration has occurred at the City Ground, with sporting director Filippo Giraldi losing his job to Ross Wilson.
Giraldi oversaw the unprecedented period of summer arrivals which is yet to truly bear fruit for Forest, who have now gone nine Premier League games without a clean sheet – the hosts are also yet to win a top-flight outing in which they have conceded this term.
Forest’s streak of resilience at the City Ground still has them in with a shot of survival, though, as they have lost just one of their last 11 Premier League home contests and have only failed to score once in front of their own fans in the top flight this term, which came in August’s 2-0 reverse to Cooper’s admirers Tottenham.
After nearly everything that could have gone right did go right for Man United in the first half of their clash with Sevilla, almost everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong in the second half.
Stepping into the boots of Marcus Rashford, Marcel Sabitzer’s brace put the Red Devils firmly in control of their quarter-final first leg, but Sevilla channelled their Europa League specialities to strike back in fortunate fashion through Tyrell Malacia and Harry Maguire’s own goals, leaving the tie hanging in the balance ahead of next week’s return leg.
Injuries to Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez summed up a disastrous second 45 for Erik ten Hag’s team, but the Red Devils must quickly refocus on their domestic duties, where they sit fourth in the Premier League table and only adrift of third-placed Newcastle United on goal difference.
Back-to-back wins with clean sheets over Brentford and Everton have put Man United in control of their Champions League destiny, but both of the visitors’ last two away Premier League games against Liverpool and Newcastle ended in defeat, and an unwanted record could be matched by the current Man United crop at the City Ground.
Having shipped 29 goals in 14 away league matches, the Red Devils could concede 30 in their first 15 away games of a top-flight season for the first time since 1978-79, but a nine-game winning streak against Forest – including a 5-0 aggregate success in the EFL Cup semis – stands the visitors in good stead against Cooper’s depleted charges.
Nottingham Forest Premier League form:
Manchester United Premier League form:
Manchester United form (all competitions):
We say: Nottingham Forest 1-2 Manchester United
With an abundance of players confined to the medical room for both sides, neither Forest nor Man United are likely to be at their best on Sunday, and the Red Devils’ recent European exertions are sure to work against them at a ground where the hosts have had no problem making the net ripple.
Man United’s form on the road has left a lot to be desired, but coming up against a leaky and injury-riddled Forest side devoid of morale should spur Ten Hag’s side on to grind out a narrow success at the City Ground.