Manchester United made a positive start to life without Cristiano Ronaldo as Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial stepped out from the Portuguese’s shadow to score in a 3-0 win over Nottingham Forest on Tuesday.
Earlier, Chelsea manager Graham Potter praised the Blues’ reaction to a poor run prior to the World Cup as they eased past Bournemouth 2-0 on Tuesday to end a five-game winless streak in the Premier League.
But manager Erik ten Hag is still targeting a striker to replace Ronaldo in the transfer market to make the Red Devils more clinical in the final third.
Ronaldo’s rollercoaster second spell at Old Trafford came to an end during the World Cup break after an explosive interview in which he took aim at Ten Hag and the club’s owners.
On the field, his influence had already waned since the Dutch coach took charge at the start of the season.
Rashford has been a player transformed under Ten Hag and carried his fine form for England at the World Cup into the Premier League’s return.
“Our players performed really well in the World Cup, I was happy to see that and now they continue,” Ten Hag told Amazon Prime. “They have to stay on that level, keep going and progress from game to game.”
A brilliantly worked corner opened the floodgates for United as Christian Eriksen picked out an unmarked Rashford inside the area to sweep into the top corner.
Forest were without their first choice goalkeeper Dean Henderson as he is on loan from United and his understudy Wayne Hennessey was culpable when the home side doubled their lead just three minutes later.
Rashford’s burst down the left and teed up Martial at the edge of the box, but the Frenchman’s strike should not have had enough power to beat the Welsh international goalkeeper.
United were also short handed at the back with Lisandro Martinez absent following Argentina’s World Cup celebrations, Diogo Dalot injured and Harry Maguire still feeling the aftereffects of an illness.
As a result Raphael Varane was forced into starting just nine days after playing 113 minutes for France in the World Cup final, while Luke Shaw lined up as a centre-back in a back four for the first time.
But Forest did little to test a makeshift backline as they remain with just one goal away from home in the league all season.
Steve Cooper’s men did have the ball in the net shortly before half-time, but Willy Boly’s effort was ruled out for offside after a lengthy VAR check.
The home side should have added more than one goal in the second half, leading Ten Hag to repeat his call for a new striker.
United appear to have already missed out on one target with Cody Gakpo set to join rivals Liverpool from PSV Eindhoven.
“We are looking for a striker because games are coming every three days,” added Ten Hag. “It’s tough and we want to play in all the leagues. Hopefully we can keep going till the end of the season, so we need numbers in the squad.”
Antony fired straight at Hennessey after fine play from Rashford and Bruno Fernandes gave the Brazilian a clear sight of goal.
Hennessey also stood firm to block from Martial and Rashford from close range, but United finally got the third goal they deserved three minutes from time.
The imperious Casemiro strode forward to win possession and picked out his Brazilian compatriot Fred to slot into the far corner.
Victory takes United to within one point of the top four and with a game in hand to come on fourth-placed Tottenham.
Forest remain rooted in the relegation zone, but just one point adrift of safety.
Chelsea back to winning ways
Kai Havertz and Mason Mount struck inside the first 24 minutes to get Chelsea back in the hunt for a place in next season’s Champions League.
Victory took Chelsea up to eighth and within six points of the top four.
“You have to use breaks as best you can,” Potter told Amazon Prime. “Evaluate and reassess and get injured players back. We used it as best we could even with players coming back at different times.”
However, victory came at a cost as defender Reece James limped off on his return from the knee injury which kept him out of England’s World Cup campaign.
James cruised through the first half but called for a substitution early in the second and looked disconsolate as he pointed to his knee before going to ground.
“You can see his quality. It’s a blow for us,” added Potter. “I’m not sure on the state of the injury. It’s too early to say.”
Sterling provided the opener with an incisive low cross to the back post where Havertz slid in to convert in the 16th minute.
Mount doubled the lead with a well-taken drive from the edge of the box as Chelsea stepped up another gear before Pulisic had another goal disallowed for a foul by Havertz in the build-up.
After three games in all competitions without scoring a goal, the Blues were determined to end their disappointing streak and get their season back on track.
Meanwhile, a fifth defeat in six league games leaves Bournemouth just three points above the relegation zone.