Nottingham Forest’s Premier League (PL) survival campaign is in serious need of a boost after a dreadful nine-match winless streak (D3, L6) pushed them into the danger zone. In another instance, individual mistakes led to Forest’s 2-0 loss to Aston Villa in their most recent match, leaving manager Steve Cooper perplexed and conceding that his team has only themselves to blame.
The Tricky Trees’ home record, where they have won 21 of their 27 points, has been a pillar of support for them frequently this season. That fortress hasn’t been as strong lately, however, as a four-match losing streak has slowed progress (D3, L1). Forest are still difficult to beat at home, however, in large part because they’ve scored in all but one of the Premier League games they’ve hosted this season; their most recent goalless streak occurred in August’s loss to Tottenham.
After blowing a two-goal lead against Sevilla in midweek (2-2), Manchester United travels to Nottingham for a Premier League encounter for the first time this century. Erik ten Hag, the manager of the Red Devils, bemoaned his team’s failure to ‘kill the game’ after a pair of own goals threatened their European advancement.
The injuries are mounting for ten Hag, who are still battling on three fronts; on Thursday, Lisandro Martnez and Raphael Varane joined Marcus Rashford, Alejandro Garnacho, and Luke Shaw on the sidelines. The Dutchman will now travel to Forest with a reduced team in an effort to keep United in the top four, but away games have become challenging recently, as seen by their return of just one victory from their past five league road trips (D1, L3).
Given that seven of his eight PL goals this season have come at the City Ground, Forest forward Brennan Johnson may be able to lead their push towards safety in this situation. David De Gea of United, who has a league-high 13 clean sheets this year, will be the obstacle in his path.
Cheikhou Kouyate and Moussa Niakhate both sustained hamstring injuries last weekend, adding two more players to the City Ground’s already overburdened medical staff. The latter was substituted without a substitution in the waning minutes of the game.
Giulian Biancone (knee), Renan Lodi (knock), Omar Richards (calf), Gustavo Scarpa (knee), Chris Wood, Willy Boly, and Dean Henderson (all thigh) are keeping Kouyate and Niakhate company in a busy treatment room, but Henderson couldn’t play against his parent club anyhow.
Remo Freuler and Orel Mangala should anticipate being immediately recalled in place of Kouyate and Niakhate, while Ryan Yates (shoulder) and Serge Aurier have not been given the all-clear to return either.
As previously noted, Varane and Martinez both suffered foot injuries during Man United’s scoreless draw with Sevilla. Martinez has been sidelined for the remainder of the season with a metatarsal fracture, but there is optimism that Varane may return before the season is through.
Marcus Rashford (groin), Donny van de Beek (knee), Luke Shaw (thigh), Tom Heaton (ankle), and Alejandro Garnacho (both ankle) are among Ten Hag’s first-choice center backs who are now in the hospital, but Scott McTominay should be in the running to make a full recovery.
Varane and Martinez will be replaced by Maguire and Victor Lindelof for the encounter on Sunday, and a healthy-again Christian Eriksen may also benefit from some movement up the field.
Possible starting lineup for Nottingham Forest
Navas, Williams, Worrall, Felipe, Toffolo, Freuler, Danilo, Mangala, Gibbs White, Johnson and Dennis.
Possible starting lineup for Manchester United
De Gea, Dalot, Lindelof, Maguire, Malacia, Fernandes, Casemiro, Eriksen, Antony, Martial, and Sancho.
We predict: Nottingham Forest 1-2 Manchester United
Both teams will likely not be at their best on Sunday due to a large number of injured players, and the Red Devils’ recent European efforts will undoubtedly work against them at a venue where the hosts have never had trouble causing the net to ripple.
Man United’s away performance has been lacking, but Ten Hag’s team should be motivated by facing a morale-less, injury-riddled Forest team to grind out a narrow victory at the City Ground.