"A mighty game from Utd!! Ole Gunnar replacing Yorke with 15 minutes to go and scores not 1, not 2, not 3 but 4 goals! That has to be a record."
By Steven Baker, PA Sport
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer put Manchester United's first-choice strikers in the shade with 10 stunning minutes as a substitute. The Norwegian scored four times against Nottingham Forest as Alex Ferguson's side racked up a Premiership record away victory.
Until Solskjaer's introduction, it had been more of the Dwight Yorke-Andy Cole show, with a brace of goals from each striker as Forest boss Ron Atkinson was introduced to the harsh reality of life at the bottom of the Premiership. Cole's two goals celebrated not only his England recall, but his recall to the side too - he had been left on the bench by Ferguson for Wednesday's victory over Derby.
But back in the starting line-up alongside close friend Yorke, Cole - with England caretaker-coach Howard Wilkinson believed to be at the City Ground watching him - proved too hot to handle.
Yorke put United in front inside 85 seconds and after Alan Rogers equalised on six minutes, Cole, who was born in Nottingham, showed Wilkinson his finishing power. First, he restored the visitors' lead straight from the restart after Rogers' strike, racing onto Jaap Stam's long ball and rounding Dave Beasant before firing into the empty net from a tight angle.
Then, on 49 minutes and after squandering a hat-trick of chances, Cole completed his double, running in to drill the ball beneath Beasant after the Forest keeper had failed to hold onto Yorke's low drive. Yorke's second came midway through the second half, slotting home into an empty net after Jon Olav Hjelde had inadvertently diverted Jesper Blomqvist's low cross onto his own post.
Solskjaer replaced Yorke and an already one-sided game became a rout.
He stabbed home from close range after good work from David Beckham and Gary Neville for his first, drilled the ball into an empty net for his second and rounded off his hat-trick in the first minute of stoppage time. But the 25-year-old was still not finished, and his fourth came in the third minute of injury time with Forest in complete disarray.
Solskjaer's performance will give Ferguson a blissful dilemma - who to choose. Yorke has now scored 21 goals this season - including nine in his last six appearances - and he is looking to be worth every penny of the £12.6million he cost in August. The Trinidadian hogged the limelight by scoring the winner in each of the 1-0 defeats of Charlton and Derby in the last seven days, but against Forest it was first Cole and then Solskjaer who caught the eye.
Cole's blistering pace was too much for Forest, who remain rooted to the bottom of the Premiership after this defeat - their fourth in five outings. Sacked England coach Glenn Hoddle accused Cole of wasting chances but, after a public row during which the striker called Hoddle "a coward", he returned to the England squad this week.
Recalling Cole was Hoddle's last meaningful act as England coach and if the 27-year-old continues to play as well as he is at present, the former boss' move will be fully vindicated. He and Yorke are unstoppable at the moment, scoring 16 goals between them in United's last seven matches - all of which Alex Ferguson's side have won. And then there is Solskjaer, the super-sub to beat all super-subs today.
What Forest manager Atkinson, the former United boss, would give for a striker with half the ability of the three on show for the visitors. His side tried manfully but they had Beasant to thank for them not being further behind at the break and after United went 3-1 up, it was a case of how many more they could score.
Beasant made several fine saves, while Paul Scholes also hit the post and if the visitors had hit double figures, it would not have been a surprise.
Ferguson's men played so well, the return to Premiership refereeing of Paul Alcock after a three-month lay-off went off relatively unnoticed. But it should be noted that he did well, allowing the play to flow as frequently as possible and showing the yellow card sparingly.
He also got the game back under control quickly in the dying stages as Forest, who were 5-1 down, started to get frustrated. It was also quite an introduction for new United assistant manager Steve McClaren - he could not have wished for a better start to his Old Trafford career.
POST MATCH REACTIONS|
Alex Ferguson was tonight left to marvel at his lethal strikeforce after Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had fired Manchester United to an 8-1 win at Nottingham Forest. Cole and Yorke both scored twice before substitute Solskjaer helped himself to four goals in the final 10 minutes.
The victory was the biggest by an away team since the Premiership was formed and United manager Ferguson heaped praise on his strikers.
"I thought the finishing was magnificent. Solskjaer was amazing. He's a finisher, there's no question about that," said Ferguson. "In the second half you couldn't say there was a weakness in any of the forwards and to have 92 goals by February is pleasing."
Solskjaer, who scored the memorable winner against Liverpool in the fourth round of the FA Cup a fortnight ago, replaced Cole against Derby on Wednesday. But Cole was back today and Ferguson said: "Ole understands the performances of those two (Cole and Yorke) has been sensational since they started to team up together.
"We just hope we can give him plenty of football. His contribution so far has been terrific. It's more than goals - obviously he wants goals - but he wants more minutes.
"Ole's an intelligent lad and I think there's a realisation that he's up against two fantastic, in-form strikers, but he's a terrific sub."
Yorke gave United the lead inside 85 seconds before Alan Rogers levelled on six minutes. But Cole put the visitors back in front straight after the restart and Ferguson added: "In the first half it was a strange game because it looked as if there were going to be goals. Both teams carved out chances - Forest had two or three, which made me worry it might be one of those silly games that we were going to throw away - but at half-time we made a few points and it was a very good result."
Forest manager Ron Atkinson, normally a bubbly individual, was understandably subdued after the game. His side were in contention until falling 3-1 behind just after half-time but then fell apart and Atkinson said: "In a nutshell, we got murdered.
"They're a magnificent side and they proved it today. We contributed a bit towards it as well - quite a bit.
"They gave us a good spanking. They were quality all over the field and we weren't as good as we could have been. We've got to get that one out of our system and out of our minds now and get on with playing West Ham next week."
All of United's players selected for England duty came through unscathed, although Gary Neville hurt his ankle in a challenge with Hugo Porfirio. Jesper Blomqvist went off with a dead leg but should be all right, while Denis Irwin was rested, though he was carrying a minor injury.
Nottingham Forest: Beasant, Harkes, Rogers, Armstrong, Palmer,
Hjelde, Gemmill, Johnson, Stone, Van Hooijdonk, Darcheville.
Subs: Freedman for Darcheville, Mattsson for Gemmill, Porfirio for
Scorers: Rogers (6)
Manchester United: Schmeichel, P Neville, Stam, Johnsen, G Neville, Beckham,
Scholes, Blomqvist, Keane, Yorke, Cole.
Subs: Solskjaer for Keane, Curtis for Yorke, Butt for Blomqvist.
Scorers: Yorke (2, 67), Cole (7,49), Solskjaer (80, 88, 89, 90)
Referee: P Alcock