SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 31: Mason Greenwood of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Manchester United at St Mary’s Stadium on August 31, 2019 in Southampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
Despite poor early season form, there are a lot of players in the Manchester United squad right now that are worth getting very excited about. Fast young players such as Daniel James, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.
Youth players such as Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes can be added to that list too in time, but the youngster everyone really wants to see shine is 17-year-old Mason Greenwood. He has ripped teams apart at every youth level for United, in a way that has propelled his name and reputation well beyond his age. He played for the Under 18’s during the 2017-18 season, despite being eligible for the Under 16’s. He was the top scorer in the U18 Premier League North that year, with 17 goals in 21 games.
Greenwood appears to be a genuinely two-footed player, who can take men on, finish impeccably, and take wonderful free-kicks. As well as this, he’s capable of dropping into midfield to start attacks from deep, similar to Wayne Rooney. His game just exudes intelligence. Comparisons have been made between Greenwood and Robin Van Persie, and its easy to see why. He can make an impact in all aspects of forward play. This diversity of skill means he would suit the fluid attacking system that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is trying to implement at United. The idea of Rashford, Martial and Greenwood all interchanging across a front three is enough to get any red excited.
He impressed during United’s pre-season tour, and fans are now desperate to see him start consistently for the first team. Despite his undoubted talent, is it too soon to give him starts in games that unfortunately already feel like must win games? We’ve seen it time and time again with young players who get given it all too soon and burn out at 22.
Greenwood only turns 18 in October. He needs to have serious care taken of him and his development. The club have taken steps to make sure he doesn’t become overwhelmed, isolating him from any interviews during pre-season. It wouldn’t be unusual if he started three or four Premier League games and failed to score. Suddenly he’d be labelled by certain fans as a “fraud” and he might not be able to ignore that sort of criticism. The fan base need to be very careful with a player who is so talented but also so young.
Comparisons have also been made with how Rashford’s career has developed. Now at the age of 21, many fans have already fallen out with him and get on his back after a bad couple of games. Whilst Rashford has by no means reached his peak, there is no denying that his development has stalled slightly in the last year or so due to the expectation put on him.
Expect Greenwood to start against the likes of Rochdale in the EFL Cup, and perhaps in the Europa League group stages, but the club are likely to take a patient approach to his development.