Taiwo Awoniyi scored two minutes after the opening whistle and Willy Boly added another goal two minutes later to give Forest a quick 2-0 lead. For a United squad that lost to Tottenham 2-0 just a week ago, another defeat — no less at the hands of team that finished 16th in the table this past season — would have been a devastating start to the season.
But after goals from Christian Eriksen and Casemiro in the 17th and 52nd minutes evened the match, United captain Bruno Fernandes nailed a penalty kick in the 76th minute to give Manchester the lead and, eventually, the win.
Fernandes' goal capped off a feisty flurry of events that led to Forest's doom. Center back Joe Worrall was hit with a red card after a hard foul on Fernandes in the 67th minute and midfielder Danilo Oliveira tripped up United forward Marcus Rashford in the box to set up the penalty kick.
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Before all of this, though, United looked lost on defense and uninspired on offense. Awoniyi broke free in the second minute and outwitted goalkeeper Andre Onana for the match-opening goal. Boly doubled Forest's lead in the fourth minute with a nice header off a free kick from Morgan Gibbs-White.
But this was as good as Forest would look for the rest of the game.
United locked down defensively, calmed down on offense and found different ways to score over the course of the match.
Eriksen collected a pass from Rashford right in front of Forest and USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner and flicked in United's opening goal. Casemiro evened the match soon after halftime off a pass from Fernandes in the 52nd minute. Fernandes ignited a nifty set-piece play which found its way back to him in the box where he nudged the ball to Casemiro for the easy goal.
The win pushes United's point total to six after three games. That keeps it on pace with the leading teams like Manchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal and Brighton. United plays Arsenal next week on the road.