At Manchester United, the club is built on breeding youngsters through the academy and giving them a chance in the first team to see if they can become a star, with Mason Greenwood it’s not different. Greenwood is a 19-year-old ambidextrous prodigy, with remarkable finishing prowess for someone of his age. He’s been at the club since 2018, progressing significantly since then. He made his debut for United in that famous night in Paris in 2019, and has made 104 appearances since then.
He’s scored 29 goals with a remarkable debut Premier League season in which he scored 10 goals, ranking him the joint second highest ever scorer in one league campaign for an U18 in Premier League history. In addition, recently after scoring in a 3-1 win against Aston Villa, Greenwood became the highest scoring teenager in Manchester United’s history which is incredibly impressive due to the names that he has surpassed like Cristiano Ronaldo. Greenwood has predominantly played off the right wing despite being a more natural striker, but the lack of natural wingers at the club especially off the right has meant Greenwood has had to adapt to being a winger to get into the team.
There is undoubted talent easy to see with Greenwood, but with highly rated youngsters like Ravel Morrison unable to maintain the right mentality for Premier League football there is always a doubt that the pressure could get to them to young and with the brutal English media against you there can sometimes be no way back. In Autumn of 2020, Greenwood was called up to England’s international team, but out there he was involved in an irresponsible scandal resulting in him losing his place in the England team. In the meantime, Greenwood lost a close friend to suicide and all this led to him being out of the United reckoning for a couple months.
Furthermore, in October and November he picked up knocks reducing his gametime further. The start to the 2020/21 season was troubled for Greenwood but to those who doubted his resilience after a bad period, Greenwood in the latter stages of the season came back firing. In the league, he managed to score six goals and one assist in six games. The defining factor to if Greenwood makes it far in his career is his mentality, if he loses his hunger to improve, he won’t become the player he could, but this spark in form in the latter ends of the season could be the evidence of him proving his critics wrong.
When Greenwood joined in 2018, he was immediately placed in the U18’s where he scored 31 goals and nine assists in 30 games. As a result of this brilliant form, Greenwood was then placed in the U23’s where he scored four and assisted two in seven games. His first team debut came in a thrilling night in Paris with an injury dampened United looking to overturn a heavy deficit away in Paris. United did just this and Greenwood even get some minutes to show for it. He gained three Premier League appearances in the 2018/19 season with ten minutes against Arsenal, fifteen against West Ham and then he was given his first start against Cardiff on the final day of the season.
Greenwood didn’t manage to score that day but he came close and his talent was clear to be seen. In the 19/20 season he became a much more solidified member of the first team as he featured in most Premier League games either off the bench or starting. His post lockdown form was electric scoring five goals and assisting one, heavily contributing to United’s comeback for top four and eventual securing of third position. This late form fully established Greenwood as not only a fan favourite but also as a first teamer for sure.
Similarly, Greenwood’s 2020/21 season started off slowly but gradually improved towards the end. This inconsistency could prove to be an issue for Greenwood, but he’s only 19 years old and has had as mentioned various troubles behind the scene which limit his ability to play with a free mindset. Therefore, his first two seasons in the first team have undoubtedly been a success as he’s played a lot of first team football for a man of his age edging out Daniel James who is a more experienced option.
As a player Greenwood has many strengths but also weaknesses. He’s got a unique ability to strike the ball with either foot leaving defenders unsure as to which foot Greenwood will shoot off making him unpredictable. He’s got great pace, and silky dribbling helping him get out of tight and difficult scenarios. Greenwood’s hold up play has seen a significant improvement in the 2020/21 season so despite not scoring as many his all-round play has improved.
Another aspect of Greenwood’s game that has improved is his crossing; due to Solskjaer’s need for him to play in the right-wing position and the introduction of Edinson Cavani upfront, Greenwood has been expected to put more crosses into the box for Cavani rather then just looking to shoot as he often does. As a result, Greenwood has clearly been putting practice in on the training ground, as although he hasn’t got many assists its clear in his game, he’s looking more eager to cross and putting some lovely balls into the box for Cavani to meet.
Another strength of Greenwood’s is his work rate, some wingers can be susceptible to not tracking back and helping the team but Greenwood always gives it his all and tracks back to provide extra support. However, as a young 19-year-old should he does have weaknesses. One major weakness can be decision making. Decision making is a pivotal aspect of a winger’s game as they must analyse whether its better to cross or shoot, often Greenwood can be susceptible to shooting as that’s what he’s comfortable doing rather then looking for the pass in which a teammate might be in a better position to shoot or continue building up the play.
This can hinder his game as he can make the wrong decisions, so Greenwood must work on the training ground on his decision making as he has a good footballing brain so adding that to his locker will make him even better. Linked to this is selfishness, as he is so good at shooting, he can be selfish and look to score himself often which as the winger in the team he needs to lower the frequency of this in his game. Another area of weakness in Greenwood’s game is impact.
Some games can pass Greenwood by as if he doesn’t get himself in a shooting position, he can become wasted and with his inexperience as a winger the linkup with Aaron Wan Bissaka can be ineffective leaving the right-hand side as obsolete and meaning United rely heavily off the left which becomes predictable and easy to defend against. Therefore, for Greenwood to improve and take his game to the next level, he must focus on improving his decision making so in the crucial moments he isn’t selfish and shoots for himself but looks to see if teammates are in a better position and then make a judgement.
Furthermore, Greenwood must improve his linkup play with Wan Bissaka if he is to become a successful winger. This is because he plays with a striker’s instincts, always looking to cut in and Wan Bissaka’s strengths do not lye in attack which can make the right side weak and easily defended leaving the team in-balanced which fundamentally hinders the team as oppositional teams can approach the games heavily marking our left and stronger side neutralising that and ultimately neutralising the whole attack.
Then finally, I feel Greenwood needs to learn to score the scrappy goals and also work on his heading. If he becomes a centre forward or a winger, I feel Greenwood needs to work on scoring the scrappy goals as anticipation as striker is pivotal to picking up the high goal tallies. Then, heading is a fundamental part of a striker’s game and if Greenwood develops a strong heading game, he can use this to his advantage and pick up many more goals.
The last big asking point about Greenwood is his position. He is a natural striker but is playing most of his football as a right winger. Manchester United, have just brought in Jadon Sancho who is an established winger comfortable of playing on both sides, and with Marcus Rashford as United’s left winger it could leave Greenwood struggling to get into the team. However, competition for places will mean Greenwood works harder and with a long season ahead his minutes played shouldn’t be an issue.
The question is where does Solskjaer see Greenwood’s future? Cavani isn’t getting any younger and will most likely be gone by 2022, and so with Martials inconsistency a first-choice striker could become needed at United. Could Solskjaer look to use Cavani this season to develop him as striker before giving him the chance to be the starting striker in Solskjaer’s team in the 2022/23 season? If he does this, and it is successful it would leave United in a much-strengthened position not needing to spend big on a striker in the transfer window, reserving finances for other positions deemed necessary.
But if Solskjaer sees him as a right winger, then United may look to bring in a striker and then look to gradually ease out players like Daniel James and Juan Mata who aren’t on the same level as the more talented wingers at the club. Therefore, I feel Solskjaer has a big decision to make this year in the development of the talented Greenwood as the position he uptakes could drastically change the outlook at United in 12 months’ time.
Overall, I feel Greenwood is incredibly talented but he cannot let his talent go to waste and thus needs to work very hard over the next twelve months to develop himself further potentially cementing himself as one of the first names on the team sheet.
Written by Ethan Bents