April 19, 2021

Man Utd

News

Gary Neville’s Greenwood prediction for England could come true

3 min read

Despite a wretched first half at Old Trafford on Sunday which saw Manchester United go in at half-time a goal down to visitors Brighton, it was all smiles at full-time after second-half strikes from Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood turned the match around.

It was only the latter forward’s second league goal of the campaign which sealed all three points for United, yet Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville confirmed on Monday Night Football that he’d include the 19-year-old in England’s 23-man squad for this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament.

“If England need a goal, I would bring Greenwood on. He’s naturally a better finisher than Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling, even though he doesn’t have the goals of Sterling, and he’s got that quality in tight spaces in and around the box.

“I don’t think there’s a natural replacement for Kane, but I think Greenwood’s the only one who can really finish.”

Neville’s comments on Greenwood being a good finisher may seem a bit overstated based on his Premier League record this season. This is especially prevalent given that his two goals have come from an Expected Goals (xG) total of 4.6 for the campaign.

Normally, an underperformance against xG by a player does signal poor finishing, converting fewer high-quality chances than expected. Therefore on that basis, Greenwood hasn’t been a better finisher than the likes of Sterling and Rashford, both of whom have finished much more in line with their xG totals this season.



Premier League 2020/21 goals vs xG (Rashford, Sterling and Greenwood)
Premier League 2020/21 goals vs xG (Rashford, Sterling and Greenwood)

Yet it’s worth remembering that last season, the 19-year-old netted ten times in the league from an xG of just 3.6. This was a standout overperformance that saw the forward score five times as many goals compared to this season despite being bestowed fewer higher quality chances.

What we’ve seen then from the United academy graduate across these past two campaigns is two extremes at the opposite ends of the spectrum.

Last season, Greenwood was running extremely hot, combining some fine finishing with some elements of luck. This season, however, it’s been the opposite. He’s been running slightly colder in front of goal as a result of less accurate finishing and fewer bouts of fortune.

Even on Sunday, he was perhaps a little unfortunate to not score more goals, as picked up on by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who said: “I’m pleased with his overall performance again, very good. He was bright, tidy, clean on the ball, hit the post and (had) one that went over the bar, maybe deflected, in the second half.”



Greenwood celebrates the winner
Greenwood celebrates the winner

Greenwood’s all-round game this season has meant that even without the goals, he’s been a key contributor to the United’s attack.

Yet Solskjaer, and of course England manager Gareth Southgate, will be hoping that Sunday does represent the start of him once again finding the back of the net on a more regular basis.

You’d bet on this being the case, too. Because in a similar way to how it wasn’t sustainable for the youngster to keep scoring at the rate he did last season when compared to the chances he was receiving, he’s proven himself too good to not start scoring more from the chances being bestowed to him this season.

Therefore don’t be surprised to see him cap off these final few weeks of the season with a flurry in front of goal which will not only aid United, but maybe perhaps even seal his place on the plane to this summer’s European Championships.

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