Manchester United are set to take on Nottingham Forest at the City Ground on Saturday in the club’s final match of the year.
United will be heading into the clash fresh off their confidence-boosting 3-2 comeback win against Aston Villa on Tuesday.
A brace from Alejandro Garnacho and the game-winning goal from Rasmus Hojlund completed the fightback for United at Old Trafford.
At the moment, the Red Devils sit seventh in the Premier League standings and six points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City.
In comparison, Forest are 16th, with just 17 points amassed this season.
Here are four storylines to look out for as the two sides prepare to meet.
Ten Hag and his players keen on building on their incredible win vs. Aston Villa
This season, United have been inconsistent and unable to put together a continuous run of positive results to help the club finish within the top four places.
However, the manner of the win against Villa could be crucial in helping Ten Hag’s men get over the line against Forest.
Many would have expected United to be easily beaten by high-flying Villa, and this expectation would have undoubtedly become more profound after John McGinn and Leander Dendoncker put two past Andre Onana within the opening 30 minutes.
In the face of adversity, the players fought hard to get something from the match. Considering they’ve been accused on multiple occasions this term of downing tools and not playing for the manager, it’s a huge credit to the team.
United have a real opportunity to dominate Forest and exert their authority at the City Ground. The 20-time English champions will undoubtedly be brimming with confidence.
Alejandro Garnacho who was sensational from the right against Villa will be keen on producing an equally impressive display vs. Forest.
The same applies to Marcus Rashford, who arguably had one of his best performances this season against Villa.
Hojlund finally broke his duck in the Premier League when he beat Emi Martinez and the young Dane will likely be eager to add to his tally after getting a taste of glory on Tuesday.
Anthony Elanga threat
One rival player that United and Ten Hag must take notice of is Anthony Elanga.
The Carrington academy graduate made the switch from Old Trafford to Forest in the summer for a fee of £15m and has been a revelation at his new club.
Elanga has notched four goals and five assists for his new side this season – two of his assists came during Forest’s recent 3-1 thrashing of Newcastle.
The Swede boasts of incredible pace that can easily hurt United’s defence. He can also go both on the inside and outside in an attempt to find his striker with a cross or fire a shot.
Elanga is also a good finisher and will almost certainly be looking to show United why they made a mistake by selling him.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s impact
In his first away game since taking charge of Forest following the sacking of Steve Cooper, Nuno’s side became the first team to score three goals against Newcastle United at St James’ Park since Manchester City in August of 2022. Even on that occasion, Man City did not win.
That was the first time that Forest had scored three goals away from home in a Premier League game this century.
In his very first attempt, the Portuguese coach matched Forest’s total number of away wins this season. Already, he has matched the total for last season too.
It’s clear that the former Wolverhampton Wanderers boss is having a positive influence on Forest and this is something United must be wary of.
Even more significant is that Nuno seems to have implemented an effective style of play that definitely took Newcastle by complete surprise.
Often when a new head coach comes in, struggling teams receive a “new manager bounce,” which sees these clubs dispatch their opponents when they initially seemed incapable of doing anything meaningful.
Cast a failure as a consequence of his brief spell at Tottenham Hotspur before being sacked from his job in the Saudi Pro League, Nuno also has a point to prove and masterminding a result against United could be a real statement of intent.
Bruno Fernandes chasing a niche Premier League record
Beyond the reward of all three points, the game against Forest could also be significant for Fernandes as he is chasing a niche Premier League record.
The United playmaker currently sits alongside ex-Arsenal star Mesut Ozil as the only players in England’s top-flight history to have created 100 or more chances in a calendar year.
Ozil is slightly ahead of Fernandes with 104 chances.
The United skipper has fashioned 100 chances.
Mesut Ozil (104) in 2014 and Bruno Fernandes(100) in 2023 are the only two players who have created 1️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ or more chances in calendar year of the Premier League! 🔴🤝#BrunoFernandes #MesutOzil #PremierLeague pic.twitter.com/EymCRQf7L7
— Sportskeeda Football (@skworldfootball) December 28, 2023
If Fernandes needs to register four or more chances to either match the legendary Ozil or surpass him altogether.
It will only be a positive thing and music to the ears of United attackers if Fernandes is desperate to create as much as possible for them.