Goalscorers: Stan Collymore 35, Stuart Pearce 62, Eric Cantona 68
Manchester United: Gary Walsh, Steve Bruce, Denis Irwin, Gary Pallister, Roy Keane, Paul Ince, Ryan Giggs (Nicky Butt 74), Andrei Kanchelskis (Gary Neville 87), Brian McClair, Eric Cantona, Mark Hughes
Nottingham Forest: Mark Crossley, Steve Chettle, Des Lyttle, Stuart Pearce, Alf-Inge Haaland, Scot Gemmill, David Phillips, Steve Stone, Ian Woan, Stan Collymore, Bryan Roy (Lars Bohinen 84)
Referee: Keith Burge, Attendance: 43,744
Manchester United had gone eight whole months without conceding a home Premier League goal at Old Trafford. Despite being distracted slightly by their European commitments, the reigning champions were still just a point behind league leaders Blackburn Rovers before kicking-off at home to Nottingham Forest.
Having made a brilliant start on their top-flight return, Forest’s form had levelled out, with just one win in seven league matches and a recent exit in the League Cup at home to First Division Millwall. Frank Clark’s side were not expected to stop the United juggernaut. The Red Devils had only dropped two points since beating Blackburn 4-2 back in October.
In the first 20 minutes, it was the home side that looked more likely to score. Mark Hughes was desperately unlucky not to open the scoring; with his volley smashing the crossbar with Mark Crossley well-beaten and Andrei Kanchelskis’s fizzling free-kick only just cleared the bar moments later. However, Forest were causing some problems from set-pieces and Stan Collymore had the ball in the net but the goal was disallowed for him impeding his marker at a corner.
Collymore was a Manchester United transfer target and had scored in the 1-1 draw between the sides back in August at The City Ground. 10 minutes before half-time, he found the back of the net again against the team who had turned Premier League clean sheets at Old Trafford into an art. Found by Bryan Roy, Collymore cut inside Denis Irwin and before Gary Pallister could make a sliding challenge, the striker unleased a powerful shot into the top corner of Gary Walsh’s goal. United’s defence had been breached after 1,135 minutes since Graeme Sharp had scored in April 1994 for Oldham Athletic.
Collymore missed another glorious opportunity early in the second half but Forest found their second goal just past the hour mark. From a short corner routine, Steve Chettle’s flick-on was only partially cleared into the path of the captain, Stuart Pearce. His shot took a deflection off one of the charging defenders and left Walsh completely stranded. The visitors had a two-goal buffer to defend.
The home side’s frustration started to boil over. Referee Keith Burge gave out yellow cards to Ryan Giggs, Roy and Des Lyttle after a couple of ugly skirmishes. Both Giggs and Roy were lucky to avoid further sanction. On 68 minutes, Manchester United found a way through. From a Giggs corner, Eric Cantona flicked the ball into the net on the near post despite the efforts of Steve Stone on the goal-line.
Stone did clear a late effort off the line from Paul Ince and despite waves of intense pressure, Nottingham Forest held on for their fourth victory in their last 12 visits to Old Trafford. It would turn out to be Manchester United’s only home loss of the domestic season and a costly one. They missed out on a third successive title in May by just a single point.