Mason Greenwood showed enough in 10 minutes from the bench at the weekend to prove he should have been on the pitch earlier.
The Manchester United talent is being talked up as a sensation. 30 goals in 29 games for the academy last season show why.
But it is right to be concerned about the way manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is bringing him in, while piling pressure on him.
Greenwood has played just 47 minutes in the Premier League this season across four games. He has not managed to score in this time, but the fault is with the manager and not the player.
Solskjaer is clearly hoping to ease Greenwood in, and not rush him.
In a normal situation regarding a 17-year-old, this would be the right move.
Greenwood is no ordinary youngster, certainly not in the words of Solskjaer.
Speaking just last month, Solskjaer told ESPN he believes Greenwood is the best finisher at the club.
He said of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial: “They’ve still got a way to go, because Mason’s more of a natural finisher than them.”
This might have been designed to get a response out of the senior duo, but it piles pressure on Greenwood all the same.
Solskjaer can’t have it both ways
He should not talk Greenwood up, and then not play him. As well as agitating supporters, it piles pressure on the striker to perform when he does get on the pitch.
The teenager may already be feeling the pressure. He has made seven competitive appearances as a substitute and is yet to score.
It drags on the wait for Greenwood’s first senior goal longer than it should, and increases the young player’s anxiety.
He is being asked to fulfil a seriously big role in terms of the squad, to replace Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez.
Fans believe he has the talent to do it, so this need not be a problem, and Solskjaer’s words suggest he believes too.
Yet by not playing the young striker, he is not putting him in a position to succeed.
The weekend away at Southampton was ideal for Solskjaer to just throw Greenwood in and give him a first start with Anthony Martial out. He could even have done this earlier.
Instead we face a situation where Greenwood will probably be back on the bench for United’s home game with Leicester.
His first start could come against FC Astana in the Europa League on September 19.
The worry is that this will turn into an ‘audition’ for Greenwood.
If it does not go his way, rather than just being put down to a bad game like Marcus Rashford had at the weekend, it could set his development back.
He could have to wait a fortnight for another chance, and his confidence may be dented.
Compare this to a scenario where Solskjaer threw Greenwood in for United’s opener against Chelsea and he could have got off the mark right away.
We desperately want Greenwood to be special. We believe he is. He is United’s next great striker in waiting. But the wait is making us nervous.
We have seen with James Wilson how promise and potential can just fall apart.
Solskjaer has the right intentions, but it is right to worry whether the manager is getting it wrong, with his words and actions not matching up.
If he does not want to rush him, then don’t talk him up. Instead Solskjaer is praising Greenwood’s potential to appease fans, media, and cover his own decisions to sell players.
This is fine, if he actually plays him. He can’t have it both ways.
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