Erik ten Hag praised “unstoppable” Marcus Rashford after the Manchester United striker’s 10th goal in 10 games left Nottingham Forest’s Steve Cooper admitting their Carabao Cup semi-final is all but over.
After their 3-0 win at the City Ground, the United manager was pleased at the manner in which his team responded to Sunday’s Premier League defeat at Arsenal that left them 11 points behind the Premier League leaders. But he came as close as he comes to an emotional outpouring when evaluating Rashford’s remarkable progress that was confirmed by a brilliant opening goal here, when he ran half the length of the pitch and between two Forest defenders before switching the ball from right foot to left to score.
“There are more players who are playing really well but I am happy with Marcus, his performance and his development,” Ten Hag said. “From the start of the season he is growing and keeps doing that. We have to keep his process going and if he is in that mood and spirit, I think he is unstoppable.
“It is up to the team to get him in the right positions. In possession we have a plan, [but it is up to some players like] like Rashy, Bruno [Fernandes] and Christian Eriksen to be creative in the final third and do something no one expects, some crazy stuff.”
Forest could be forgiven for focusing on their next Premier League game away to Leeds a week on Sunday and Cooper accepts the second leg at Old Trafford next Wednesday will be about more than trying to achieve a miraculous comeback.
“It’s going to be incredibly difficult,” he said. “It was going to be that anyway but it’s going to be three times that now. We’ve got to set some objectives so that we come out of the next game better than we go into it.”
Ten Hag was also gratified to see Wout Weghorst score his first goal for United but took as a warning the counterattack that allowed Forest to believe they had equalised before Sam Surridge was adjudged offside. “There was one moment that could have changed it and we have to avoid that,” he said. “That is a learning moment to develop a really good team [after] the first 20 minutes was all ours. Then we allow them to come back in the game and that can’t happen, it is a learning moment. The second half was much better, much more calm.”