Steve Cooper demands big performance from Nottingham Forest at Man United

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Steve Cooper has challenged his Nottingham Forest players to prove they can perform on the biggest stage when they head to Old Trafford on Wednesday night.

Forest have little hope of overturning the 3-0 deficit from from the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final against a Manchester United side who have won their last 11 home games.

But though he recognises their chance of reaching Wembley has all but gone, Cooper has set his side other objectives as he demands a performance from his players.

High among them is improving a woeful record away to the Premier League’s top four – Forest have conceded 16 goals without reply in trips to Arsenal, Manchester City, Newcastle and United in the league this term, including a 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford in late December.

“What we haven’t done this year is be able to play really well on a stage like Old Trafford, the Etihad or the Emirates,” Cooper said. “We’ve talked about that and the lads have talked about it themselves.

“Can we look like a better team somewhere like Old Trafford at an occasion like this?

“Like I said straight after the (first leg), as disappointing as it was we’ve got to find some clear objectives to get out of the game. There’s always an objective because of who we play for and what it represents but we always add some other stuff in as well.

“It can be important if we can come out of Old Trafford having played well and maybe got a positive result.”

In the likes of former United midfielder Jesse Lingard and ex-Paris St Germain and Tottenham defender Serge Aurier, the Forest squad includes players who have shone in such arenas before, but Cooper said it was not down to individuals.

“We have some players who have played on the big stage before and excelled but it would be wrong for me to say it’s about this player or that player,” he said. “As a team we’ve got to show it.

“But hopefully within that there are individuals thinking, ‘I could do that, that’s a stage I want to play on’. That goes for me as well.”

There are of course many famous occasions through history where teams have beaten the odds to overturn deficits even bigger than this, but Cooper has not spent much time taking any inspiration from them this week.

“If you focus too much on things like that you forget about getting ready for the game,” he said.

“There’s a very slim chance and where there’s a chance there’s hope. If there’s hope you have to give your all but we are 3-0 down and it’s Old Trafford and the chances are slim.

“We have to use all of that as motivation to play better than we have done in the last two games against Manchester United.

“It still might not be enough to get a result because they are a world-class team. You can see that with the players they’ve got and when you go up against them live you feel it even more.

“We’ve just got to focus on ourselves, try and do well, and see what we can take out of the game in a positive way.”

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