26 December 1998
Manchester United 3:0 Nottingham Forest
FA Premiership
Old Trafford


"It may have been Christmas but there was no joy for Nottingham Forest as they were outplayed especially during the 60 minute mark when Utd scored a fantastic team goal."


By David Anderson, PA Sport

Nottingham Forest's visit to Old Trafford proved to be just the tonic Manchester United needed as they brushed the Premiership's weakest team aside to collect three vital points. United went into the game on the back of their worst defensive run since 1992 and they had only won one of their seven previous matches. Such form ultimately made little difference against a game, but inadequate Forest as United strolled past Dave Bassett's basement boys.

Ronny Johnsen was United's unlikely hero as he netted their first two goals, including a spectacular second, before Ryan Giggs completed the scoring. Manager Alex Ferguson will be glad to record a win finally in the month of December, but he will perhaps take more satisfaction from his side's first clean sheet in 12 games.

Forest's battle to pull themselves free of the relegation quagmire is looking more and more hopeless and they have now equalled their own Premiership record of 16 matches without a win. Forest went down that season and with each passing match that looks more likely to be their fate at the end of this campaign. Once again Ferguson had rung the changes because of injury, suspension and the desire to rest players and Teddy Sheringham partnered Paul Scholes in attack, while Henning Berg and Johnsen were deployed in the heart of the defence.

Bassett knew the odds were stacked against his side and he admitted his players would be struggling to make the United bench, while their one individual of class, Pierre van Hooijdonk, was banned. The first-half mirrored the dull and dismal conditions and once again United's passing was missing its customary zip and accuracy. Forest were more than holding their own in terms of possession and territorial advantage - until David Beckham began to find his range.

From one delivery Dave Beasant produced a tremendous save to stop Ryan Giggs' header flying into the top corner. From the resultant corner, which was United's first of the match, Beckham swung the ball over to the back post where Johnsen headed home. United scarcely deserved their 28th-minute lead, but they picked up after the goal. Nicky Butt pounced on a loose pass to launch a United counterattack which almost resulted in a goal when Giggs' pass took a deflection off Steve Chettle and nearly beat Beasant.

Roy Keane, who was clearly relishing this battle against his old club, then unleashed a 20-yard drive, but unfortunately straight into Beasant's arms. In the second half United began to move up through the gears and Scholes released Keane with a delightful flick only for United's skipper to be thwarted by Mathieu Louis-Jean at the expense of a corner. Giggs then produced a fine run down the left and found Sheringham totally unmarked in the Forest box, but his shot was saved by Beasant.

United were looking increasingly dangerous and they put the game beyond Forest's reach with a two-goal burst inside three minutes. In the 59th minute Beckham swung over a free-kick which Berg headed back across the box for Johnsen to volley home his third goal of the season. There was no holding United now and three minutes later Sheringham fed Scholes who released Giggs on the left and he lifted the ball expertly over Beasant and into the Forest goal for his sixth of the campaign.

That was the cue for Ferguson to bring on his substitutes and on came Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Jonathan Greening and Jesper Blomqvist. Forest also brought on rookie defender Chris Doig for his first taste of Premier League action. The rest of the game was little more than a training exercise for United and they stroked the ball about until referee Jeff Winter blew for full time to end Forest's misery.


Alex Ferguson enthused over Ryan Giggs' third goal which set the seal on their Manchester United's first win in seven games against Nottingham Forest. Paul Scholes and Teddy Sheringham combined to release the Welshman and he applied an exquisite finish to lift the ball over Dave Beasant and into the Forest goal.

"The third goal was absolutely superb and I don't think you will get a better piece of football than that anywhere in the country," said Ferguson. "The off the ball running was great and it was a marvellous finish from Ryan."

Ronny Johnsen was United's unlikely goalscoring hero, the Norwegian centre half bagging the first two goals to put them on course for victory.

Ferguson said: "That was surprising and you don't get many centre backs who score two goals. I thought the second goal was very well taken."

Beleaguered Forest boss Dave Bassett insists he will not bow to the clubs boo boys and quit. Forest remain rooted to the bottom of the Premiership after they equalled their own league record of 16 games without a win with this 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford.

Some frustrated Forest fans vented their anger on Bassett and while he understands their fury he claims he will not be forced out. He pointed to the many problems he has had to cope with at the City Ground and he does not feel his departure would not necessarily improve their fortunes.

"I can understand the fans having a little pop and they are disappointed but things get forgotten like Kevin Campbell was sold at the start of the season and Pierre Van Hooijdonk didn't turn up for three months," he said. "The fans have had a pop at this and now we think we might as well have a pop at the manager. But I'm not the sort of man who resigns because it's not going right or someone says I can't have this or that.

"I'm not one of the big name managers who can say stick your job up your bottom, I'm going to make myself available to any club who comes in. When you work for a firm you take the rough with the smooth and I was brought up to work come what may. If I thought getting a new manager would benefit Forest I would resign, but I'm not ready to sit down with the board and say I can't turn this round."

Forest were hit hard by injuries and suspensions for this game and youth team defender Chris Doig was brought back from his Christmas holiday in Scotland to make his debut as a second half substitute.

United boss Alex Ferguson has no such worries because of his vast squad and his team were able to cope with the loss of Gary Neville, Jaap Stam, Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke through injury and suspension.


Manchester United: Schmeichel, P Neville, Berg, Irwin, Johnsen, Butt, Keane, Giggs, Beckham, Scholes, Sheringham.
Subs: Blomqvist for Giggs, Greening for Keane, Solskjaer for Scholes.
Scorers: Johnsen (29, 59), Giggs (62)

Nottingham Forest: Beasant, Louis-Jean, Rogers, Quashie, Chettle, Stone, Johnson, Bart Williams, Freedman, Stone, Armstrong.
Subs: Doig for Chettle, Hodges for Stone, Bonalair for Bart Williams.

Referee: J Winter

Attendance: 55,216

© Sporting Life 1998. Page maintained by Patrick Eustace, last updated Thursday, 27-Jan-2000 18:43:46

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