April 23, 2021

Man Utd

News

Greenwood proving his point as Man Utd prepare to improve in transfer market

4 min read

“First header,” Mason Greenwood’s girlfriend posted on Instagram. Greenwood ‘s David Bowie chant flows well enough to not have to accommodate ‘and his head’, but his predatory winner against Brighton is already his manager’s favourite of the teenager’s 24 Manchester United goals.

“Yeah, definitely,” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer agreed. “So happy for him and pleased for him. His overall performance was very good, bright, tidy, clean on the ball, he hit the post and had one that went over the bar, maybe deflected in the second-half.

“When he gets those goals we know he’s going to add another dimension to his game, very, very pleased.”

Within a minute of Edinson Cavani’s removal, Greenwood mimicked him by adjusting his body to connect with Paul Pogba’s mishit. The goal reminded Solskjaer of Cavani’s equaliser at Southampton in November, when he had a split-second to react to Bruno Fernandes’s deflected shot and steer the ball past Alex McCarthy.

Greenwood was in a near-identical position to Cavani against Brighton; a yard outside the six-yard area and lurking to salvage a harmless shot. A more nostalgic comparison could be drawn with Ruud van Nistelrooy: 149 of his 150 United goals were inside the 18-yard box.


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Greenwood’s winner was his first Premier League goal since December 5, a flawless half-volley at West Ham teed up by himself on the half-turn. Greenwood has so far mustered a third of the 18 goals he tallied last season but two of them have earned United six points in the Premier League.

Solskjaer managed a goal more than Greenwood in his first full United campaign of 1996-97, although he was fortunate to be credited with a 19th as Paul Scholes’s piledriver that cannoned off the crossbar against West Ham had bounced over the line before Solskjaer guided it in. In his second season, Solskjaer’s goals output was a meagre nine, and that empathy with Greenwood is invaluable.

Football has become so sullied by algorithms and mathematical equations many solely judge players on their statistics. In recent months, Greenwood has not had the numbers to highlight his improvement but it has not gone unnoticed by purists who have watched United’s games.

Solskjaer was pleased a reporter referred to his impressive performance level in the aftermath of the AC Milan win. He gave another short shrift on Sunday.

“His goals output?” Solskjaer scoffed. “The world nowadays is so onto stats and assists and goals and this and that. The boy has played fantastic the last two or three months, he has really matured and has really come on.

“Today as well, he links the ball well, takes people on, hits the post, one over the bar, if he keeps learning and improving he will score more, he’s a lethal finisher. I’m very very pleased for him to get the winner in the way he did.”

Solskjaer knows forwards are judged on their goalscoring and Greenwood was urged by his manager to move inside as early as his second Premier League start. It was from that area Greenwood larruped in United’s winner against Newcastle last season and his goals in the last two games have been more striker-like.

Marcus Rashford craves a central role but is instructed to stay wide and play on the shoulder of the full-back. That is about as public as anyone at United will get to recognising Greenwood as the more expert centre forward. He is a left-footer on the right yet none of the coaching staff view Greenwood as an ‘inverted’ winger.

Rashford has a creditable 19 goals for United this term and is four shy of a career-best tally. Only his entourage would argue he has outperformed Greenwood in the last two months and, whatever business United do in the summer, it will be with a view to accommodating Greenwood.



Greenwood celebrates the winner
Greenwood celebrates the winner

Anthony Martial faces a sorry end to a sorry season and his number as the number nine was up some time ago. The clocks have gone forward and Cavani looks intent on clocking out of United soon. Rashford is careworn and it cannot be a coincidence there has been a downturn in form amid unnecessary PR noise from his camp. Sensitive medical information was disclosed by Rashford’s agency on Twitter last week.

Greenwood carried United against Brighton and his maturity was not just reflected by one of those scruffy goals Solskjaer savours but by Rashford and Cavani’s absence. Both were removed at 1-1 and Greenwood came up trumps.

In Greenwood and Amad, United have reliable and raw options from the right, hence the understandable emphasis on a striker in the summer market. Greenwood could yet outscore Martial, destined for a career-worst season with United, and Cavani’s seven goals have come against three sides. Solskjaer and Gareth Southgate have followed Jose Mourinho’s cue in using Rashford as a ‘wide raider’ from the left.

It was perhaps telling Mourinho chose 54 for Greenwood’s first squad number. Five plus four equals nine and he is developing into a modern nine. Especially if he uses his head more.

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