Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has found the Old Trafford club’s next Cristiano Ronaldo in academy graduate Mason Greenwood. It is a big confidence booster for the 18-year-old and a big statement to make but it is of the opinion of former United striker Dimitar Berbatov and he kind of has a point.
During his time at United, signing for the club in the summer of 2008 and leaving for Fulham in the summer of 2012, Berbatov scored 56 goals and 27 assists in 149 appearances, winning two Premier League titles, one League Cup, one FA Community Shield and FIFA Club World Cup. The Bulgarian feels that Greenwood is that good United do not need to sign another forward this summer. Berbatov said:
“Greenwood, against Brighton, was like Ronaldo. His left foot is unbelievable along with his vision, I don’t think many signings are needed to take United to that next level.
“They need to be really classy players to make the difference, someone who is going to be better than the current squad of players.”
Against Brighton and Hove Albion, a match which United won 3-0, Greenwood opened up the scoring in the 16th minute of the match, assisted by Aaron Wan-Bissaka and then turned provider for the third goal of the match, playing the ball over to Bruno Fernandes, who had scored the second goal too, on the right so he could score the third. Solskjaer praised the player for his performance, saying:
“He’s getting better. You can see clearly that he’s maturing and improving, he’s only 18 still so we will see more from him.
“I’ve said it throughout the year that as long as we can get him faced up in and around the box he’ll create chances for us but in this game his hold-up play and his link-up play and general movement was fantastic as well.
“It’s great when he can go inside and outside, both to his left and right. He’s a special talent, a special kid that we are going to look after, try to develop into a top top player.
“He’s doing well now but he is still young and has things to learn. He knows that but we have a special talent there we have to nurture.”
It might be premature for Berbatov to label Greenwood as the new Ronaldo but he has done so knowing just how good the player is right now, at the age of 18 and how that talent could grow. If you look at it this way, Greenwood has played 39 times for the U18’s scoring 39 goals and 15 assists, which was a great start to his career.
In addition to that, at U19 level, Greenwood represented United five times, scoring five goals and one assist. That shows that he was able to adapt to a slightly higher level, raising his game. At U23 level, Greenwood represented United just eight times, scoring five goals and two assists. Looking at what he achieved at youth level shows what he’s capable of.
Greenwood played 52 times at the various youth levels at United, scoring 49 goals and assisting a further 18 times, which is a great goal involvement rate of 1.28 goals per game, whether scored of assisted. With minimal experience at U23 level, Greenwood has walked into the first team and risen to the challenge, scoring 13 goals and five assists in 40 appearances or 0.45 goal involvements per match.
If Greenwood can be compared to Ronaldo now, what kind of player will he be after three of four years experience in the first team. Solskjaer knows that he has a special player in his team at this moment in time and Berbatov knows that Greenwood is a player that could be something great with more experience. The player right now, seems grounded, which is a great sign for the future.