Erik ten Hag calls on Manchester United to be 'ruthless' after win over Nottingham Forest

Dutchman pleased with the 3-0 victory but believes there is much more to come from his team

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Erik ten Hag said he was pleased with Manchester United's performance in their 3-0 Premier League win over Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night but called on his players to be even more "ruthless" in front of goal.

United returned to league duty following the World Cup break in fine style, with goals from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial inside the first 22 minutes setting the hosts on track for victory at Old Trafford. Fred then scored the third a few minutes before full-time.

"I'm happy with three goals and there could have been even more, and a clean sheet, so I think we have a good return after the break," United manager Ten Hag said. "It was nice to watch our game. We are growing but, after a break, you see always a setback and a drop in performance."

United are fifth in the Premier League standings, one point behind fourth-placed Tottenham having played a game fewer. But despite their encouraging progress under Ten Hag after a poor start to the season, goals have been generally hard to come by: only Chelsea (19) have scored less than United's 23 in the teams in the top-half of the table, while only after Tuesday's win have United gained a positive goal difference.

The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo during the winter World Cup break - following his explosive television interview - means United are less one more proven goalscorer, but Ten Hag insisted his squad contains plenty of firepower.

"We have to score more goals. I think we created so many chances, it takes us until just before the end to make the third goal. I think we have to finish the game in earlier moments," the Dutchman said.

"I think just after half-time, we created two really good chances and we have to finish the game. I think our players can score, you can see that, Martial is a goalscorer, Rashford is a goalscorer, Bruno Fernandes scores goals, so we have a lot of players who can score goals but we have to be ruthless.”

Manchester United v Nottingham Forest player ratings

Rashford's return to goalscoring form has encouraged Ten Hag, with the England forward on 13 goals for club and country so far this season, but the Dutch coach believes there is still much more to come.

"There is still room for improvement from Marcus but this [performance] was at a good level and he's unstoppable if he keeps in this spirit, this focus," he said. "I am sure the process will keep going and he'll score more goals and get more assists."

Another area of concern for United for many years had been in central midfield, where the team was often accused of lacking quality and leadership. However, the fine form of Casemiro, signed from Real Madrid in the summer, looks to have solved that particular problem, and the Brazilian was superb once again against Forest.

"It is a pleasure to work with him, I think everyone sees how important his role is," Ten Hag said. "The performance, the level he brings to the team is huge.”

Updated: December 28, 2022, 6:06 AM