Football: Forest bedevilled by Beckham

Nottingham Forest 1 Manchester United 8
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The Independent Online
"YOUR BOY had a good game," the Norwegian journalist said to the proud father as he waited outside the dressing-room for his son to emerge.

"Thanks," said Mr Beckham, knowing that although it had been Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole who had made Big Ron's side look rather small by scoring twice each, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who had then doubled the tally to a disrespectful level, it had been his son, David, who had been the real Goliath in the humiliation of Nottingham Forest.

"How can you describe it? The finishing was amazing," Alex Ferguson, the United manager, said when asked how he felt his team had performed.

"I don't think it's ever happened before," he added of the four goals that Solskjaer scored after coming on 18 minutes from the end.

"The boy's a finisher. There's no question about that."

The United manager acknowledged how strong his attacking options now are. "In the second half you couldn't say there was a weakness in any of the forwards," he said. "And to have 92 goals by February [59 of which have come in the Premiership] is pleasing."

Ferguson added his forwards are aware of his dilemma when it comes to deciding which striking combination to select, and, apparently, they understand his problem.

"Ole's an intelligent lad and I think there's a realisation that he is up against two fantastic, in-form strikers," Ferguson said. "But he's a terrific sub," he added, with a wry smile, of the man who helped United to the biggest Premiership away win since the League started in 1992.

For David Beckham, there was only praise. "Marvellous. He can put the ball where he wants," said Ferguson of Beckham's passing, which on Saturday was as accurate and perfectly weighted as it is possible to be.

Apart from the sublime distribution, the young Londoner (still being booed for his red card against Argentina, yawn, yawn) also displayed a hunger for possession, intelligent off-the-ball running and an almost telepathic relationship with Yorke and Cole. Watching the three in harmony was, at times, mesmerising, with Beckham either carving clever channels down the right and then picking out his man, or collecting the ball in midfield and acting as a mercurial servant for the striking pair, slotting in behind them as they set off on perfectly timed runs and delivering the telling pass on cue.

All this bodes well for the England team and their caretaker, Howard Wilkinson, who was at the City Ground to watch his United contingent in action. United's young lions all came through the game unscathed (although Gary Neville hurt his ankle in a challenge with Hugo Porfirio and will need monitoring) and Wilkinson will have been pleased with Cole, whose goals further justified Glenn Hoddle's last act as coach in recalling him.

United's rich period of form could probably not come at a better time for Ferguson either, with the title race intensifying and the European Cup quarter-final first leg less than a month away. For Ron Atkinson, the defeat could not have come at a worse time. A week after he had marshalled Forest to their first win in 19 games, they were torn to pieces.

United were superlative, but they were certainly not hindered by the gaping holes that were left around the Forest penalty area. "In a nutshell, we got murdered," Atkinson said. "United are a magnificent side and they proved it today. We contributed a bit towards it as well. Quite a bit. They were quality all over the field and we weren't as good as we could have been."

Asked about Solskjaer, Atkinson could only grin and say: "He got four didn't he? Good job they didn't put him on earlier."

No one felt it appropriate to ask the Forest manager what he thought about the United fans' chants of "Big Ron for England".

Goals: Yorke (2) 0-1; Rogers (6) 1-1; Cole (7) 1-2; Cole (49) 1-3; Yorke (66) 1-4; Solskjaer (80) 1-5; Solskjaer (87) 1-6; Solskjaer (89) 1-7; Solskjaer (90) 1-8.

Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Beasant; Harkes, Hjelde, Palmer, Armstrong (Porfirio, 74); Stone, Johnson, Gemmill (Mattsson, 57), Rogers; Van Hooijdonk, Darcheville (Freedman, 25). Substitutes not used: Bart-Williams, Crossley (gk).

Manchester United (4-4-2): Schmeichel; G Neville, Johnsen, Stam, P Neville; Beckham, Scholes, Keane (Curtis, 71), Blomqvist (Butt, 75); Yorke (Solskjaer, 71), Cole. Substitutes not used: May, Van der Gouw (gk).

Referee: P Alcock (Halstead, Kent).

Bookings: Forest: Porfirio. United: Keane, P Neville.

Man of the match: Beckham.

Attendance: 30,025.

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