If there’s one thing that’s always been true about Manchester United, it’s that they’ve always given young players from their academy a chance. Of course, it helps to have a top-flight academy that produces players who are ready to step into the English Premier League and make an impact.
But whether it’s the chicken or the egg, there’s no denying that academy products always seem to get their chance, and more often than not, they shine when given a chance. Not too long ago, that was the case with a player like Marcus Rashford, and the next in line appears to be 18-year-old Mason Greenwood.
On the heels of Greenwood scoring a vital equaliser against Everton after coming on as a sub, the teenager is likely to get more opportunities in Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s squad in the weeks and months to come. With the Red Devils struggling to find consistency under Solskjær and sitting outside the top four, making them an unreliable option for those looking to use their Bet365 bonus code, the club is in need of a spark.
United could get a boost from the January transfer window, but it could also receive a boost from a young player like Greenwood.
Much like Rashford and many others that came before him, Greenwood has been with Manchester United since he was a boy. He joined the club’s academy at the age of six and quickly rose through the ranks, making his first-team debut last season when he was only 17 years old.
With a little bit of experience under his belt, Greenwood has taken every opportunity given to him by Solskjær this season and run with it. He found the back of the net four times during the group stage of Europa League, making him one of the top scorers in that competition heading into the knockout stage.
Greenwood also helped to save the Red Devils from a crushing defeat against newly-promoted Sheffield United, tallying a goal in the 3-3 draw.
Of course, all of that was just leading up to the equaliser that Greenwood scored against Everton. That’s the goal that could become the flashpoint for his entire United career.
The Red Devils were at risk of seeing the momentum from back-to-back wins over Tottenham and Manchester City spoiled by the struggling Merseyside club. At the time, withdrawing Jesse Lingard for Greenwood was a puzzling move by Solskjær.
But the teenager made his manager look like a genius just minutes later, perfectly placing a shot in the bottom corner of the net past England keeper Jordan Pickford.
“Mason Greenwood is different class in and around the box,” Solskjær said after the game. “You’re not surprised when he scores goals. We’ve always had the DNA, with added players from other top clubs, and that will always be the philosophy here.”
The goal itself was pure class. The youngster wasn’t overwhelmed by the moment, nor did he try to do too much. He simply placed the ball with his left foot in a spot that the diving Pickford wasn’t able to reach.
But perhaps the most impressive thing about the goal was Greenwood’s reaction. There was no over-the-top celebration or an awe-struck moment when the teenager realised that he had accomplished something special.
Instead, Greenwood merely ran back to United’s side of the pitch to prepare for the kickoff, knowing that the Red Devils were eager to get one more goal before the 90th minute.
The goal and his reaction are clear-cut evidence that Greenwood has skill, ability, poise, and intelligence on the field that go far beyond his years. He has an understanding of the moment, his role on the field, and how he fits into the goals of the team.
It’s no coincidence that nearly all of his goals this season, both in the Premier League and Europa League, have come at critical moments, often with United trailing. Awareness of time and score and the ability to find space on the pitch are traits that Greenwood has already proven he possesses, and they are traits that can’t easily be taught.
Of course, it’s always important to pump the brakes when the hype train starts to move too fast. It won’t be all smooth sailing for Greenwood from here on out. There will be slumps and growing pains along the way.
However, there is little doubt that he has the qualities, both physically and mentally, to excel for Man U in the Premier League and in European competitions.
His rise from academy product to first-team contributor has been quick, and even the United manager admits that it’s becoming difficult to avoid putting him in the starting 11.
“He’s making it hard for me to leave him out,” Solskjær said. “I remember when I came to the club, and I kept scoring a few goals. The manager’s comments were that it was hard to keep players who score out of the team. It’s very difficult now to put a team out there without having Mason in my mind.”
By no means is Greenwood going to be an automatic starter in the Manchester United for lineup the rest of the season. The likes of Lingard, Anthony Martial, Daniel James, and others will all be hard to keep off the field as well.
However, in a couple of short months, Greenwood has made himself an integral part of the squad. Only Rashford has scored more goals for the Red Devils across all competitions this season.
Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Greenwood’s career at United is set to take off, and it’s a safe bet that the goal against Everton won’t be the last time Greenwood scores a clutch goal that saves the Red Devils.