Manchester United will aim to bounce back to winning ways when they take on Nottingham Forest at City Ground on Sunday.
Gameweek 31 of the 2022/23 Premier League season continues on Sunday, with two matches scheduled. The action kicks off with the game between West Ham United and Arsenal. And the main event will witness Nottingham Forest welcoming Manchester United to Old Trafford.
Nottingham Forest came into the 2022/23 season as one of the favourites to go back down to the EFL Championship. But the Tricky Trees have produced some surprise results, including wins over Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. However, Steve Cooper’s men are currently on a nine-game winless run stretching back to early February. And they have thus dropped into the relegation zone.
On the other hand, Manchester United were one of the most in-form teams after the World Cup and hardly dropped points in the Premier League. But the Red Devils have blown hot and cold in the last six weeks, winning five of their last nine games. The latest setback came in the 2-2 draw with Sevilla in the UEFA Europa League, which came with two casualties.
Manchester United and Nottingham Forest have met each other thrice this season already. And the Tricky Trees are yet to find the back of the net, with the Red Devils scoring eight goals. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides.
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#NFOMUN in our sights 🔜 pic.twitter.com/NY8ivhJzFC
— Nottingham Forest (@NFFC) April 13, 2023
Steve Cooper has a plethora of injury troubles hampering his preparations ahead of his side’s latest fixture. Against Manchester United on Sunday, the Nottingham Forest manager will be bereft of the services of 11 first-team players.
Dean Henderson (thigh), Willy Boly (hamstring), Serge Aurier (unspecified), Renan Lodi (knock), Omar Richards (calf), Moussa Niakhate (thigh), Cheikhou Kouyate (thigh), Ryan Yates (shoulder), Giulian Biancone (knee), Chris Wood (hamstring), and Gustavo Scarpa (knee) are all on the sidelines.
But Henderson would have been ineligible to face his parent club Manchester United even if he was available. So there is no looking past Keylor Navas between the sticks, with Nottingham Forest set to line up in the usual 4-3-2-1 formation in front of him.
Neco Williams is an automatic pick as the right-back in Aurier’s absence, And Harry Toffolo should fill Lodi’s void on the left flank. Meanwhile, Felipe and captain Joe Worrall should form the central defensive partnership. As for the midfield unit, Remo Freuler, Danilo, and Orel Mangala pick themselves.
Meanwhile, Emmanuel Dennis should spearhead the Nottingham Forest attack, with Taiwo Awoniyi not being fit enough to start. Morgan Gibbs-White and Brennan Johnson will support Dennis in the final third. And the duo will be Nottingham Forest’s best bet to trouble David de Gea on Sunday.
Probable Lineup (4-3-2-1): Navas; Williams, Worrall, Felipe, Toffolo; Freuler, Danilo, Mangala; Gibbs-White, Johnson; Dennis
Erik ten Hag has had the ignominy of receiving heartbreaking news after his team’s latest game this week. Against Nottingham Forest on Sunday, the Manchester United manager might be without as many as eight first-team players.
Lisandro Martinez (foot) and Raphael Varane (ankle) are the latest absentees. And the former has played his last game of the season, with Manchester United confirming the news with an official statement. The duo has joined Tom Heaton (ankle), Donny van de Beek (knee), Alejandro Garnacho (ankle), and Marcus Rashford (groin) on the sidelines.
Meanwhile, ten Hag is sweating over the fitness of Luke Shaw (hamstring) and Scott McTominay (knock). The duo might not be fit enough to start but might make the matchday squad. Meanwhile, David de Gea is an automatic pick between the sticks, with Manchester United lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation in front of him.
Breaking: Manchester United have announced that Lisandro Martinez will miss the rest of the season after fracturing a metatarsal bone in his foot.
He is expected to make a full recovery in time for the start of next season. pic.twitter.com/yYpnAsmJ9d
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) April 14, 2023
Varane and Martinez’s absence means Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire will form the central defensive partnership. Diogo Dalot should start as the right-back, with Tyrell Malacia retaining his spot on the left flank.
As for the midfield unit, Christian Eriksen should make his first start since recovering from a long-term ankle injury. Eriksen’s return will afford some rest to Marcel Sabitzer. The Dane will join Casemiro in the double pivot in the middle of the park.
Bruno Fernandes will be the most advanced midfielder for Manchester United. And considering he will miss the return leg against Sevilla next week, the Portuguese international will leave everything on the pitch. Finally, Antony, Jadon Sancho, and Wout Weghorst should complete the offensive unit. So Anthony Martial will get some rest as ten Hag manages his minutes.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Dalot, Lindelof, Maguire, Malacia; Casemiro, Eriksen; Antony, Bruno Fernandes, Sancho; Weghorst
- Sunday will witness Nottingham Forest’s first home league game against Manchester United since February 1999, when they lost 8-1 under Ron Atkinson, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scoring four times as a substitute. The Red Devils have won their last nine games against Nottingham Forest in all competitions, defeating them three times this season alone (once in the top flight and twice in League Cup). Manchester United have beaten a side four times in a season twice before, doing so against Sheffield Wednesday in 1993/94 and Chelsea in 2010/11.
- Manchester United have won their last six Premier League games against Nottingham Forest, scoring at least three goals on each occasion. In English top-flight history, only Manchester City (8 vs Wolverhampton Wanderers, 1902-1932) and Arsenal (7 vs Middlesbrough, 1930-1933) have won more consecutively against an opponent while netting 3+ goals.
- Nottingham Forest are winless (D3 L6) and without a clean sheet in nine Premier League games. They are without a win in all 23 league games in which they have conceded this season (D8 L15), with all six of their victories being to nil.
- Manchester United have lost three of their last four away games in the Premier League (W1), having only lost three of their first ten on the road this season (W5 D2). The Red Devils have conceded 29 goals in 14 away league games this term. Not since 1978/79 have they hit 30 goals conceded within their first 15 matches on the road of a league campaign.
- Manchester United have scored a league-high share of 84% of their Premier League goals from open play this season (37/44), with their seven goals from set-piece situations (including penalties) being the joint-fewest in the division.
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Manchester United’s loss might somehow be Harry Maguire’s gain, as ironic as it sounds. The English international has seen his stock plummet this season, becoming a bit-part player for the Red Devils. And he became the butt of jokes after scoring the bizarre own goal against Sevilla this week.
The experienced defender now has the opportunity to end the 2022/23 season strongly. And with Lisandro Martinez done for the campaign, Maguire will likely start every game in the next six weeks. And ahead of crunch talks regarding his future, he will be hoping to help Manchester United achieve their objectives.
Nottingham Forest 1-2 Manchester United
Nottingham Forest might be in all sorts of trouble amid the recent winless run. But they are strong at home, sitting in the 12th spot on the home Premier League table. However, the Red Devils found a way to unlock their stubborn defence at City Ground in the Carabao Cup earlier this season.
Meanwhile, Manchester United have not been solid travellers, having a dreadful goal difference of -12 on the road. But the Red Devils have their strongest midfield partnership back, which should pave the way for a match-winning effort.
However, Nottingham Forest will not go down without a fight, capitalising on the absence of Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane. In the end, Manchester United should hold on to eke out a narrow 2-1 win at City Ground on Sunday.
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