Mason Greenwood – what does the starlet offer Manchester United after Europa League goal?

The 17-year-old made his first start in Manchester United’s Europa League game against Astana

Luke Bosher
Thursday 19 September 2019 22:10
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer compares Mason Greenwood to Ryan Giggs

After scoring his first goal in Manchester United’s Europa League opener against Astana on Thursday, Mason Greenwood showed the talent that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has so much faith in.

The 17-year-old from Bradford is one of United’s most hotly-rated talents, but was to many a surprise inclusion in the first team squad this year, given his age.

With Dan James picking up an injury this week, the attacking output of United was shouldered predominantly through Greenwood in a game that they narrowly won, 1-0, thanks to Greenwood's well-taken finish.

Here is everything you need to know about the latest prospect from Old Trafford.

Where does he play?

One of the reasons Greenwood is part of United’s first-team squad this year is the fact he is natural centre-forward and that is an area where they are light.

The departure of Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan and Ed Woodward’s decision to not sign a replacement left only Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford as recognised senior strikers in the United squad – a situation which has come under some criticism.

However, those in the know believe that the ability Greenwood has shown throughout his young career is a reason as to why United did not sign a striker – they already had one waiting in the wings.

Who does he play like?

Greenwood has been compared to Marcus Rashford and Robin van Persie

Greenwood has drawn comparisons to teammate Marcus Rashford, due to his searing pace and ability to beat a man in a 1-v-1 situation. In a similar vein to when Rashford burst onto the scene, Greenwood plays without fear and seemingly unwavering confidence in his own abilities.

There are, of course, differences between the two young strikers. Greenwood at times exudes shades of Wayne Rooney in his play – often he takes up deeper positions than a traditional No.9 would and is a good passer of the ball.

Due to being left-footed and relentless in front of goal, comparisons have been made with former United hitman Robin van Persie. Like the Dutchman, Greenwood is also incredibly adept with his right foot and has even been known to take set-pieces with both feet.

Due to his pace and two-footedness, Greenwood is capable of playing wide on the left and right, as well as up front. This is reminiscent of Ousmane Dembele, although where Dembele has an unbelievable box of tricks from wide areas, Greenwood perhaps reads the game slightly better than the Barcelona man.

What experience does he have?

At 17, Greenwood is somewhat lacking in first-team experience, although he did make his first start for United in the final match of the 2018/19 season in the 2-0 defeat to Cardiff, becoming the club’s youngest ever Premier League starter. He had previously made two substitute appearances against West Ham and Arsenal.

It is Greenwood’s record at youth level that has propelled him into the United first team – as a 15-year-old he top-scored with 16 goals in 17 games for the U18 side. Last season he continued in the same vein, with 15 goals in 13 games in the U18 Premier League, as well as three in six in the Premier League 2 and five in as many games in the UEFA Youth League. Including his senior appearances, he averaged a goal every 92 minutes throughout the 2018/19 season.

Greenwood’s remarkable form was rewarded with a place in United’s pre-season squad, where he scored against Leeds and Inter Milan and impressed sufficiently to remain with the team past the transfer window.

This season, he had featured from the bench in all of United’s league games prior to the international break before remaining on the bench in the 1-0 win over Leicester. All things point to Greenwood making his first start of the season against Astana this Thursday.

Internationally, he has featured for England at various youth levels and made his debut at U21 level in the most recent international break, featuring twice for Aidy Boothroyd’s side.

Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood at Manchester United training (Manchester United via Getty)

When might he feature?

With United being handed a relatively kind Europa League group with Astana, Partizan Belgrade and AZ Alkmaar, it seems likely that Greenwood will be handed starts in the group stage of the competition and potentially beyond.

United also play Rochdale in the EFL Cup on September 25, and due to the nature of the competition and opposition it is likely that Greenwood will start here too.

There were more than a few United fans calling for Greenwood to make his first start of the season against Leicester, given injuries to Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba and United’s lack of depth in attacking areas, but he was consigned to the bench.

Should United befall any further injuries to the likes of Rashford, Martial or James, it is not unlikely that Greenwood will feature more prominently in the Premier League as the season progresses, especially if he impresses in the cup competitions.

What’s been said about him?

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was full of praise for Greenwood and described the young striker as “one of the best finishers I’ve seen”.

Greenwood’s former academy coach Mark Senior was also very complimentary of the young striker, and praised his unique skill-set.

“People says he’s like the new Robin van Persie but I don’t know,” he said in March 2019. “I think he’s his own man. I’ve not seen another player like him. His style means his pace is deceptive because he is absolutely rapid.”

Earlier this year, Old Trafford legend Ryan Giggs was one of those who paid Greenwood the complement of comparing him to van Persie.

“I think you can get excited about his talent,” Giggs said. “You never know when players step up to the first team how long it will take them to get used to being at a big club.

“He’s talented. I’ve seen a lot of him. Both feet. He actually looks and moves like Robin van Persie. He’s a talent.”

Aidan Barlow, Greenwood’s teammate in the United youth ranks, admitted it is “no surprise” that he has been fast-tracked into the first team.

“He’s a top player and I’m sure he’ll become one as well,” he added. “He’ll keep working hard and he’s humble. He will keep his head down, and I am happy for him.”

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