Manchester United take on Nottingham Forest in the last game of 2023. The Red Devils have an outstanding record against the City Ground outfit, having won the last 11 games against them.
Forest, like United, have struggled this season and lie in 16th place in the table, just two points above the drop zone. However, they have had some impressive wins and performances against tougher oppositions, so should be underestimated at the Red Devils’ peril.
Due to poor form, the Tricky Trees sacked Steve Cooper and brought in Nuno Espirito Santo, which has seen a loss and an impressive victory away to Newcastle United on Boxing Day. The change of coach has resulted in a switch of set-up to a more defensive 4-2-3-1 formation, which relies on a more solid defence and hitting teams on the counter.
The Old Trafford side will need to do the following to ensure they finish the year with morale-boosting win.
Concentrate better at set pieces with Chris Wood lurking
It is no secret that Man United don’t do set pieces well. This was twice ruthlessly exposed against Aston Villa last time out, as the Red Devils conceded two incredibly soft goals from a free kick and a corner.
Unfortunately, Forest are quite good at them and they have a big number nine who has been seemingly unlocked by Santos. Chris Wood is a tall, powerful striker who thrives in a physical environment. The New Zealand international has scored four goals and has two assists in the new coach’s first two games.
This includes a sensational hat-trick against former club Newcastle last time out.
It is not difficult to see, if United can keep Wood as quiet as they kept Villa’s Ollie Watkins last time out, this will benefit the side’s chances of winning greatly.
Nullifying Anthony Elanga and the counter attack
Sky Sports have reported on the Nuno effect on Nottingham Forest’s counter-attacking skills. “Forest were magnificent on the break against Newcastle, flooding forward in numbers and punishing the opposition,” they report. “There was a clarity to what they were trying to do. It was trademark Nuno”.
United academy product, Anthony Elanga, has sparked into life in his new environment, scoring four goals and creating five more. The 21 year old was electric versus Newcastle, assisting Wood twice and being awarded an 8.8 rating on Sofascore.
Manchester United will most likely have the lion’s share of possession, so they will need to take care not to be ripped apart by Forest’s devastating counters.
Keep the Danish connection together
One of the highlights of Man United’s season was Rasmus Hojlund breaking his Premier League duck on Boxing Day. It is crucial that they keep getting him involved and keep the chances flowing so he can get on some sort of run to do the team and his confidence a world of good.
Paul Scholes has already claimed that having the creative Christian Eriksen back in the side will aid Hojlund and his compatriot, alongside Bruno Fernandes, will look to find the striker with more frequency.
Forest have conceded 34 Premier League goals this season, so they will give you chances. The Red Devils need to make sure a few of these fall to their young Viking upfront.
If Ten Hag’s men can achieve all three of these things, Red Devils fans all across the world will surely head to their New Year’s Eve parties the next day with a big smile on their faces.