LONDON – Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag’s command of the English language has improved since the Dutchman moved to England, but he has yet to find another word to describe star forward Marcus Rashford besides “unstoppable”.
He had said it before earlier in January, and on Wednesday he said it again after Rashford scored a dazzling solo goal as United beat Nottingham Forest 3-0 in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final to virtually book a place at Wembley in February.
The 25-year-old netted his 18th goal of the season in the sixth minute to silence an expectant crowd at the City Ground.
New United loan signing Wout Weghorst scored his first goal for the club just before half-time to put the visitors in total control and Bruno Fernandes made it 3-0 late on.
“I’m happy with the performance, over 90 minutes we controlled the game,” ten Hag said.
“There was one moment which could have changed the game and we have to be aware of that and improve.
“In this mood and with this spirit, he (Rashford) is unstoppable. He can be creative in the final third, do something in the final third, some crazy stuff, fantasy and adventure.”
The second leg will take place at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
The Red Devils are hot favourites to reach Wembley as they seek to end their six-year trophy drought following their 2017 Europa League win, with likely Newcastle lying in wait after the Magpies beat Southampton 1-0 in their first-leg encounter on Tuesday.
Brazil midfielder Casemiro was back in the United starting line-up after being suspended for Sunday’s 3-2 Premier League defeat at leaders Arsenal, and his calmness and influence played a big part.
Forest came into the match full of confidence after just one defeat in their past seven Premier League matches.
But the visitors took control immediately and opened the scoring in style. Rashford picked up the ball in his own half from a Casemiro pass and raced down the left, cutting into the box between Joe Worrall and Remo Freuler before beating goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey at his near post with a powerful left-footed shot.
Forest, who have won the League Cup four times, thought they had equalised midway through the first half when Sam Surridge produced a fine finish but the goal was ruled out by the video assistant referee for a tight offside.
Five-time winners United doubled their lead just before half-time, with Dutch forward Weghorst reacting smartly to fire home with the outside of his right foot after Hennessey had denied Antony.
United supporters in the away end were singing “Wembley” at the interval and their dreams of returning to the famous old stadium got even closer after Fernandes slotted home following a clever pass from substitute Anthony Elanga.
“Obviously, it was a disappointing scoreline,” Forest coach Steve Cooper said. “The last thing you want to do is go to Old Trafford with this result.” AFP, REUTERS