Manchester United striker Mason Greenwood’s goal comes at a vital time for the side after he delivered a winner in their 2-1 win over Brighton on Sunday night.
The 19-year-old forward grabbed a vital win for the side in what has been a difficult season for the youngster, and what could turn into an edgy run-in to the campaign for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Three points have moved United into a strong second position in the league after Leicester and Chelsea both suffered defeats at the weekend. There are few games left for United to throw away their chance of finishing directly behind City.
While Greenwood made his first appearance for the side in 2018/19, one of four appearances that campaign, this can be considered his second season proper. He played 49 times last season and could exceed that this year with 40 in the current campaign. While last season he grabbed 17 goals, he has just six this season, with only two goals in the league. He has not been poor this year, but he has certainly performed below hopes, if not expectations.
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It has been a struggle this year for Greenwood, which should perhaps come as no surprise. At just 19 he has established himself as the future of the first team, if he makes the most of his potential. That is no little pressure, and playing without expectations is far easier for many players. It also should be remembered that Gareth Southgate had to admonish the teenager for failing to comply with Covid-19 rules while on international duty in Iceland, and it is certainly possible that he is letting his new-found importance alter his attitude.
If that is the case, then there should be plenty of people in his first team squad who can have a word. Juan Mata could stay on for another year as he is reportedly regarded as a mature presence for the squad. Bruno Fernandes can show him how to stay focused on winning, and Marcus Rashford can show how to transition from a promising youngster to a responsible and admirable senior first team player, regardless of age. There are enough sensible heads who can show Greenwood the way forward to becoming a brilliant player for United, as he certainly has the talent to do so. It would be a waste for him to let the chance slip where there is now a way forward to stake a claim as a first-choice member of the team.
In his first full season he displayed a disarming ability to strike early from the edge of the box, and to calmly tee himself up in the area, with more touches than most players would usually have time to employ. There is an exceptional talent to be developed, and while Solskjaer has displayed no real tactical aptitude, there are enough players with ability alongside Greenwood that he can learn off his own back - if he chooses to.
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United now have the chance to secure a second-place finish to put pressure on Ed Woodward to supply cash in the summer transfer window to properly improve the squad. Such a finish might persuade Fernandes to sign a new deal and give Paul Pogba the platform to play to his full potential. They also have what should be a simple tie with Granada to progress to the semifinals of the Europa League. Winning that and finishing second is hardly a brilliant return for a season, but it is better than most clubs will manage, and it certainly represents an improvement, year on year.
In order to do that, United need goals, and they may have to do that without Anthony Martial, who may be injured for the rest of the season after succumbing to a problem on international duty. If that is the case then Greenwood has the chance to demonstrate that he is not just the long-term future of the club’s front three, but its immediate future too. Martial has been inconsistent this season after an impressive year in 2019/20, so there is a clear opportunity for Greenwood. If he is able to find his best form now then he could be the difference between second and third, and he could be the difference between an underwhelming season finale and a season that ends in silverware. Both his and the club’s future are in Mason Greenwood’s hands.
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