Mason Greenwood made his Manchester United debut at the Parc des Princes in March 2019. His team were 2-1 up against Paris Saint-Germain when he came on in the 87th minute, but they needed another goal to secure progression in to the next round, having lost the first leg 2-0. No club in European Cup history had overturned such a deficit from the home tie and avoided being knocked out.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believed that Greenwood, who had turned 17 just five months earlier, could make a difference, so good was his reputation from the academy. It was another former youth-team player who stole the headlines that night, with Marcus Rashford scoring an injury-time penalty, but Greenwood had been given his first taste of that euphoric feeling of a big win for the Reds.
In recent weeks, he has got used to that winning feeling, scoring four goals in his last three appearances as United’s unbeaten run continues.
His goal against Aston Villa on Thursday night took his tally for the season to 16 and you wouldn’t bet against him reaching 20 before the campaign finishes, which would be an incredible return for the teenager. In the league, he’s scored more than the likes of Alexandre Lacazette and Roberto Firmino, despite being given a fraction of the playing time.
Greenwood has also become the second teenager, after Wayne Rooney, to score in three consecutive Premier League games for United. Rooney went on to become the all-time highest goalscorer for United and England. While it’s far too early to make similar predictions for Greenwood, it’s hard to see how he won’t go on to have an incredible career, given how talented he is and how quickly he has adapted to top-flight football.
Whenever Greenwood gets on the ball in shooting range you have full confidence that he will score, or at least get it on target. Remarkably, despite starting just eight games in the league, he has more goals from outside the area than any player this season.
Solskjaer has said he has no intention of resting him any time soon, with Greenwood having now surpassed Daniel James as United’s best option on the right wing.
United fans largely are still very keen to see Jadon Sancho join from Borussia Dortmund, but there’s nowhere near the same desperation there was even just a few weeks ago. In truth, Sancho would provide the competition for places and quality in the starting XI to help take United to the next level, and signing him should be a priority for the club. But Greenwood will be on the heels of all the players in the forward line, given the versatility his two-footedness brings.
Last season at academy level, Greenwood scored 20 goals with his left foot and 20 with his right. He takes free-kicks and penalties with different feet in the same game, which is the inspiration behind his chant.
Left-backs usually expect their direct opponent to cut inside, but with Greenwood you never know what he’s going to do. Bournemouth’s Diego Rico found this out last week. “Don’t let him turn! Don’t let him turn!” his teammates shouted. He didn’t, but Greenwood only needed half a yard to fire his shot away with his right boot instead.
United fans have long hoped that Rashford will one day become the club’s record goalscorer. Now, with 18-year-old Greenwood forcing his way into the team, the competition is on.
But for now, the 18-year-old can just focus on scoring goals and helping United win some silverware in the FA Cup or Europa League, as well as securing a top-four finish for Champions League football next season.