Casemiro knelt down on his haunches, his back to the goal Manchester United was attacking, waiting for the Stretford End’s reaction to establish whether Bruno Fernandes’ penalty had struck the back of the net or not.
When the crowd roared, Casmiro jumped up and punched his fists, releasing the emotion that came with being released from jail. United finally had something to cheer about at the conclusion of a terrible week. It wasn’t a convincing result, but it was one that was urgently required.
There have been many sad days here in the last decade, but none have started as poorly as tonight. United would have welcomed a return to actual football after a week of being buffeted both on and off the field. At least till 3.04pm.
They were two goals down to Forest at that point, the earliest they had ever been two goals down in Premier League history. It seldom rains, but it pours, and it felt appropriate when the clouds broke soon after, the rain flowing over the groaning roof of the Sir Bobby Charlton stand, a reminder that neglect can often be seen all around the area.
United’s too aggressive style was to blame for Taiwo Awoniyi’s goal inside 90 seconds, which came from a counter-attack from their own corner. The second goal might be attributed to their carelessness, with Diogo Dalot giving away a cheap free-kick and Casemiro failing to cut Morgan Gibbs-White’s cross out before it met Willy Boly and entered the bottom corner.
It was chaos in the away end and confusion across the whole of Old Trafford. United deserves credit for recovering, but the afternoon left as many questions as answers.
Marcus Rashford breezed past Serge Aurier, and Christian Eriksen was on hand to turn the cross in. Eriksen showed enough today to suggest he should compete with Mason Mount for a starting berth when the England midfielder returns to fitness.
United didn’t complete their comeback until the second half, with Fernandes at the helm. His clever free-kick set up Casemiro’s equalizer, then he smashed home his penalty when Danilo tripped Rashford, reducing Forest to ten men.
But it looked like another uninspiring afternoon for United, who have been fortunate to win two of their opening three games of the season. To beat Arsenal, they’ll have to play a lot better than we’ve seen thus far.
Again, they were too open at times, and Forest may have felt they deserved more than two goals. They didn’t have as many shots as the Wolves did here two weeks ago, but they still looked dangerous. Much stronger teams than those two will visit Old Trafford in the coming season, and the hosts cannot afford to be as kind as they appear to be at the present.
Casemiro assisted United’s goal, but he is still exposed at the base of midfield and is frequently caught too far up the pitch. Diogo Dalot was vulnerable at left-back, while Raphael Varane’s exit at half-time could be another injury blow in a season almost defined by them at the moment.
On the plus side, United has finally identified a forward threat. They scored three goals and appeared to believe the game was winnable.
However, a happy medium must be reached. This team cannot continue to give teams like Wolves and Nottingham Forest the confidence they have. This was a critical victory, but there is more work to be done.