Manchester United came from two goals down inside four minutes to win 3-2 against 10-player Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford.
Goals from Taiwo Awoniyi and Willy Boly had stunned United and given Steve Cooper's side an excellent opportunity to claim their first away win in the Premier League since January but Christian Eriksen pulled one back and those hopes disappeared in the second half.
Casemiro levelled and when Joe Worrall was sent off for a foul on Bruno Fernandes, the momentum proved irresistible. The United captain scored the winner from the penalty spot after Marcus Rashford was fouled by Danilo. A dramatic win for Erik ten Hag's team.
"It is a horror start giving them two goals and of course making mistakes but I am very pleased with the comeback," said the United head coach afterwards. "There is a good spirit and energy in the team. They found a way to win."
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Manchester United: Onana (6), Wan-Bissaka (7), Varane (4), Martinez (5), Dalot (5), Casemiro (7), Eriksen (7), Fernandes (7), Antony (7), Martial (6), Rashford (7).
Subs: Lindelof (6), Sancho (7), McTominay (n/a).
Nottingham Forest: Turner (6), McKenna (6), Worrall (5), Boly (7), Aurier (6), Danilo (6), Yates (6), Aina (6), Johnson (7), Awoniyi (7), Gibbs-White (7).
Subs: Niakhate (6), Kouyate (6), Wood (n/a), Elanga (n/a).
Player of the match: Taiwo Awoniyi.
Three games into the season, United are still struggling for form, but have won two of those matches, nevertheless. Forest, for all that they contributed to this entertaining game, missed the chance to achieve that feat. Their wait for an away win continues.
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How Man Utd turned it around
Manchester United's vulnerability had been a feature of their opening two fixtures of the season - one won, one lost. But if their supporters had been hoping those issues had been addressed on the training ground they were soon disabused of that notion.
The opening goal was reminiscent of one scored by Demba Ba during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's time in charge as Awoniyi raced clear. Marcus Rashford, of all people, was the man chasing him as Andre Onana beat a hapless retreat, stumbling before the striker even shot.
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- Erik ten Hag changed three of the team that lost to Tottenham, two of them enforced. Injuries to Luke Shaw and Mason Mount saw Diogo Dalot and Christian Eriksen come in. The third swap brought back Anthony Martial in place of Alejandro Garnacho.
- Nottingham Forest made two changes following their win over Sheffield United. Ryan Yates came into midfield in place of Orel Mangala, while Ola Aina replaced Neco Williams. World Cup winner Gonzalo Montiel was named on the bench for the first time.
It was comical defending but a special moment for the Nigerian, who became only the third African player to score in seven consecutive Premier League appearances - and the first man to do so in a Forest shirt in the competition's history, breaking Stan Collymore's record.
The second goal was just as alarming from a United perspective. Boly knew little about the header from Morgan Gibbs-White's right-wing corner but that somehow made it worse that he was allowed to meet it. The atmosphere inside Old Trafford was sour at that point.
Eriksen's goal brought some relief, a clever flick after Rashford had finally found some space in his favoured left channel. And Casemiro should have levelled things when he found himself unmarked with Matt Turner beaten only to head wide of the far post. A sitter.
That would have been harsh on Forest given the frequency with which they troubled their hosts on the counter-attack. Had Gibbs-White picked better passes, had Awoniyi not contrived to block his shot, their third goal would have come before half-time.
Instead, the game flipped back in United's favour in the second half. A cleverly worked free-kick between Fernandes and Rashford allowed the former to find Casemiro. This time, the Brazilian converted. The pressure switched to Forest as United pushed.
Protests at Man Utd ownership
A section of the Manchester United support remained in position after the game singing long and loud in protest at the ownership of the Glazer family.
Their predicament only became more difficult when Worrall was sent off. Boly was providing some cover but there could be no certainty that he would have beaten Fernandes to the ball had the Forest captain not hauled his United counterpart to the ground.
The momentum felt irresistible and Danilo's decision to lunge in on Rashford on the left edge of the penalty box provided Fernandes with the opportunity that Worrall had denied him. The Portuguese blasted the penalty kick past Turner. Turnaround complete.
For all the fine play, Cooper will be concerned. It is an alarming away record and to claim nothing from a game in which they effectively had a two goal head-start suggests they are too open. Even in victory, Ten Hag may reach similar conclusions of his own side.
FPL Stats: Man Utd 3-2 Nott'm Forest
|Goals||Awoniyi, Boly, Eriksen, Casemiro, Fernandes|
|Assists||Gibbs-White (2), Rashford (2), Fernandes|
|Bonus points||Fernandes (3), Eriksen (2), Gibbs-White (1)|
Analysis: Man Utd still vulnerable
Manchester United deserve credit for extricating themselves from such a tricky situation and it is understandable if Ten Hag prefers to put the focus on the character of his players, while match-winner Fernandes talks of a team capable of great things.
That is not the overriding emotion when watching United's chaotic performances thus far this season. Fortunate against Wolves and punished by Tottenham, there was little evidence that those warnings had been heeded here, either in terms of team shape or urgency.
The expected-goals data suggests that only Fulham, Luton, Bournemouth, Everton and Wolves have conceded more chances than United this season. It has not stopped them picking up six points out of nine but nor is it sustainable for a side with their ambitions.
Ten Hag on overcoming 'horror start'
"It is a horror start giving them two goals and of course making mistakes but I am very pleased with the comeback. The leadership, how we stayed calm and composed, stuck to the plan, stuck to the belief and turned it around. We played very good football and out of our plan and our rules, we scored very good goals.
"At the start, every team has areas where they need to improve and definitely we also have some. But we have to progress there if we are to be successful. But you can see that this team has good character, good personality. There is a good spirit and energy in the team. They found a way to win."
Fernandes was crucial to that, United's outstanding performer. "I think in almost all aspects he played very good game of the highest level. Keeping calm, keeping his emotions under control and at the right moment using his emotions. He was brilliant in attack, making the difference. I was very pleased with his performance."
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A section of Manchester United supporters stayed long after the final whistle to protest about the ownership of the Glazer family, calling for them to sell the club. Asked whether that has any impact on him and his players, Ten Hag responded.
"What it is about is they are entitled to have that opinion. But you see also that between the fans and the team there is a very strong bond. Throughout my time here it becomes stronger and stronger. Today, I think again we make it stronger because a magnificent comeback will help the supporters. We get big support away from home and at Old Trafford and we need to strengthen that."
One other concern was the loss to injury of Raphael Varane, who had to be replaced at the interval. "He had complaints so we did not want to risk him. We have Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof as good replacements so we do not take risks when there are complaints. If it is really bad we don't know. We have to wait."
Cooper 'biting his tongue' on decisions
Two key moments turned the game in the second half, the sending off of Worrall when Fernandes was adjudged to have been denied a clear scoring opportunity, and the penalty awarded against Danilo for making contact with Rashford inside the area. Cooper was left frustrated.
"I just think in games like these you need a bit, I don't even want to say good luck, to go your way, just things to go as they should. I don't want to get myself in trouble but the one thing I am surprised about is how quickly the decisions were made. On decisions that can define a game you tend to see referees take a bit more time particularly at the top level.
"There was a decision to make that is plain to see. I was just surprised how quickly... It was split-second stuff. You just need things to go your way. I am biting my tongue, to be honest, in terms of what I really feel. Of course, they were defining moments in the game.
"There were other things as well. Of course, it was an amazing start to score two goals. One of the frustrations that we will have taking away from the game is that we had some really good moments to score again, some real good positions in the box. I have to look at the moments where we could have done a bit better."
Early drama in stats
- Nottingham Forest went 2-0 up just three minutes and 47 seconds into this match, the earliest into a Premier League match that Manchester United have ever gone two goals behind.
- Manchester United have won 13 Premier League games when two or more goals behind, more than any other side in Premier League history.
- Nottingham Forest became the first side in Premier League history to go two goals ahead inside four minutes in a Premier League game and then go on to lose.
- Manchester United conceded in the opening two minutes of a home Premier League game for a second time this year. Before 2023, they'd only conceded in the opening two minutes of a home Premier League game on three occasions.
Arsenal Manchester United
Sunday 3rd September 4:00pm Kick off 4:30pm
Manchester United have a tricky start to September, with next weekend seeing them visit Arsenal on Super Sunday, live on Sky Sports with kick-off at 4.30pm.
Erik ten Hag's side then host high-flying Brighton after the international break on September 16, kick-off 3pm.
Nottingham Forest are in Carabao Cup action in midweek, hosting Burnley at the City Ground on Wednesday, kick-off 7.45pm. Steve Cooper's side then travel to Chelsea next Saturday in another tricky Premier League away day, kick-off 3pm.