Injury-hit Manchester United beat relegation-threatened Nottingham Forest 2-0 on Sunday to strengthen their push for a top-four Premier League finish.
Erik ten Hag’s men took full advantage of defeats for rivals Newcastle and Tottenham the previous day to climb to third in the table, courtesy of goals from Antony and Diogo Dalot.
The teams had already met three times this season, including in a two-legged League Cup semi-final — with United winning on each occasion.
Injured United central-defensive pairing Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez were replaced by Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof, while Dalot came in for Tyrell Malacia.
The visitors, also missing top-scorer Marcus Rashford, were forced into a late change when midfielder Marcel Sabitzer was injured in the warm-up and replaced by Christian Eriksen, making his first start since January following an ankle injury.
Forest, who had not won in their past nine games, made four changes.
United were quickly out of the blocks and Jadon Sancho had a strike blocked in the opening moments.
The visitors dominated possession but Steve Cooper’s Forest were a menace from set-pieces.
Forest goalkeeper Keylor Navas saved from Bruno Fernandes before a VAR check for a potential penalty at the other end after the ball hit Maguire’s arm from a corner.
United took the lead in the 32nd minute when Antony poked home after Navas parried a powerful shot from Anthony Martial.
Dalot almost gifted Forest an equaliser shortly before half-time after some sloppy play but Taiwo Awoniyi smashed the ball well over.
Fernandes put a header wide from the centre of the box just before the break.
United continued to dominate in the second half, with Fernandes and Eriksen pulling the strings.
Portugal international Fernandes produced a stunning curling effort from the left of the box that was pushed on to the bar by Navas and Antony fired just wide.
Martial missed a glorious chance to extend United’s lead when he headed wide with 20 minutes to go before Forest defender Felipe nodded over from close range.
United finally got the reward their dominance deserved in the 76th minute when Dalot burst into the box to meet a pass by Antony to score his first Premier League goal.
The win leaves United three points clear of fourth-placed Newcastle after 30 games, and six clear of Tottenham, in fifth.
“Really focused and concentrated from start to finish.”Ten Hag told the BBC.
The United boss remarked on a “really solid performance from all on the pitch today”, singling out Maguire and Lindelof for praise.
“Last week I had nine fit top defenders, now I have four,”
“We need all our players — we are still in three competitions. We need all the players to form a top team.”He said.
The Red Devils have surpassed last season’s Premier League points tally with eight matches still to play as they turn their attention to this week’s Europa League and FA Cup clashes.
Forest remain in the bottom three and are in serious danger of returning to the Championship after just one season in the English top flight.