"Alex Ferguson once again opted for youth in the Worthington Cup and it took a senior player to break the deadlock after 57 minutes. Ole Solskjaer scored again on 60 and Steve Stone, 8 minutes later scored a screamer from over 30 yards to bring Forest back into the match. Too little too late however."
By David Anderson, PA Sport
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer proved there is nothing second-string about him by cutting down Nottingham Forest in the Worthington Cup to take a Manchester United reserves line-up through to the last eight. The Norwegian international, out of favour because of the form of Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, scored twice in three minutes to book United's place in the quarter-finals.
Once again Ferguson fielded a team mostly of reserves for the fourth-round tie, but Solskjaer demonstrated that he is sharp enough to cut it for the first team. The 25-year-old, who scored in the last round against Bury, was rampant in the second half and was denied a hat-trick in the final minutes when Dave Beasant touched a drive on to the bar.
Forest, without the luxury of a squad like United's, fielded a virtual full-strength side, although bad boy Pierre van Hooijdonk was named among the substitutes because he reportedly had a head cold. The much-maligned Old Trafford pitch, which had been patched together following Sunday's goalless draw against Newcastle, again started to cut up. That made little difference to Forest's 19-year-old striker Marlon Harewood, who quickly tore into United.
He showed Henning Berg a clean pair of heels in the 10th minute, and it needed a fine stop from Raimond van der Gouw, diving to his right, to thwart him. Forest, next to bottom of the Premiership and with just one win in normal time from their last 10 games, continued to press - and van der Gouw made another good save at his near post from Chris Bart-Williams' drive.
United were hardly pulling up many trees in the first half, and their first shot on target did not come until the 28th minute. At the other end Stone headed just wide from Andy Gray's cross as Forest continued to do most of the attacking.
Van der Gouw denied Forest again in the 33rd minute when Scot Gemmill's shot hit his knee, although the Dutchman seemed to know little about it. United no doubt were given a rollicking by Ferguson at the interval and in the second half they were a totally different proposition.
Cruyff twice shot wide of the target in between a deflected Jonathan Greening effort which Beasant magnificently touched around the post. Greening then broke down the left only for the former York striker to shoot straight at Beasant.
United finally made the breakthrough in the 57th minute when Cruyff played Solskjaer through with a neat pass, and the Norwegian shot past Beasant. Three minutes later it was 2-0 when Cruyff again released Solskjaer on the left and slotted home his sixth goal of the season.
The gate of 37,237 was the lowest at Old Trafford for many a month, but the home fans did not mind as United finally began to play. Forest responded by bringing on van Hooijdonk to boos from the United supporters.
Alan Rogers almost hauled Forest back into the game with a terrific 25-yard shot which van der Gouw tipped over the bar. Stone threw the visitors a lifeline in the 68th minute with a goal-of-the-season contender which flew into the top-left corner of Van der Gouw's goal from 30 yards out.
Forest had what looked like a strong penalty appeal turned down when Rogers went down under a challenge from Greening. Solskjaer almost completed his hat-trick when Beasant lost the ball in the centre circle after he had raced out of his area, but his long-range effort went just wide of the unguarded goal.
He was denied again in the dying minutes when Beasant touched his drive on to the bar.
POST MATCH REACTIONS|
Beaten Nottingham Forest boss Dave Bassett feels Alex Ferguson is right to use his Manchester United reserves in the Worthington Cup. United manager Ferguson will stick with his second string for their quarter-final at Tottenham on December 2 following their victory over Forest at Old Trafford. Bassett claims that is a wise move because he is giving his shadow squad valuable first-team experience while allowing his star players a welcome breather.
"If I were Alex trying to achieve what he's trying to achieve I'd say to the boys 'go to Tottenham because it will be another experience for you'," he said. "They've played in front of 50,000 odd people in the last round and now 40,000 odd against us and at Tottenham it will be another 40,000. That's great experience for these players and so when they come into the first team on a more regular basis it won't be a case of them not being used to it. Let's face it as well, if Alex wanted to put any of them on the list tomorrow they would be going to Premiership clubs."
Ferguson insists that no matter what team he picks he still wants to win the Worthington Cup.
"People keep saying we don't want to win the trophy, but that's not true," he said. "Every team I have played in the trophy, I've put out to try and win it."
United won the fourth-round tie courtesy of two Ole Gunnar Solskjaer strikes in the 57th and 60th minutes, which took his tally for the season to six. United had been poor in the first-half, but Ferguson put that right with a few choice words during the interval.
"At half-time I said to them that they were not playing to the level that they can play," he said. "I told them to relax and enjoy themselves and thereby that way they could express themselves better. The second-half was a good performance from us and I think we deserved the result. It's going to be a nice trip to London now."
United's night was slightly marred by a calf injury to David May, while Solskjaer needed treatment on a sore leg afterwards. Steve Stone had given Forest hope with a terrific goal from 30 yards out in the 67th-minute and Bassett felt they should have had a penalty for a challenge by Jonathan Greening on Alan Rogers.
Ultimately, though, Forest lost because they squandered several good chances and Bassett was left to figure out how to improve their finishing.
"I don't know what's wrong," he said. "We'll have to get some witches or exorcists in or have a word with a vicar or something."
Manchester United: Van Der Gouw, Clegg, Curtis, May, Berg, Wilson,
Butt, Cruyff, Mulryne, Greening, Solskjaer.
Subs: Wallwork for May.
Scorers: Solskjaer (57,60)
Nottingham Forest: Beasant, Louis-Jean, Rogers, Chettle, Gemmill,
Bart Williams, Freedman, Stone, Gray, Harewood, Armstrong.
Subs: Van Hooijdonk for Harewood.
Scorers: Stone (68)