The disappointment of the Europa League semi-final defeat has begun to subside. And while that has been replaced with an anxiety over a lack of transfers, it is important to stop and pause a moment and take in what we have just witnessed.
The 2019/20 season has been a transitional year for Manchester United, one of growth. No player has grown quite as much as Mason Greenwood.
He played 115 minutes of first team action in 2018/19, before being handed a prominent pre-season role. He grabbed it, with goals against Inter Milan and Leeds.
Even then, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer introduced him to the starting XI slowly, reserving him for cup competitions rather than Premier League matches.
This was so much so earlier in the campaign that Greenwood needed to play a game in the EFL Trophy just to get some minutes under his belt, and one in the under-23s. Of course, he scored goals in both matches.
As the season went on, Greenwood earned more trust in the Premier League, and after lockdown when he was seen to have bulked up, he became a regular in the starting XI.
Greenwood went on to score 10 Premier League goals, despite being in the starting XI for just 32 per cent of his 31 appearances.
He averaged a goal every 143 minutes, which this season, was marginally better than Harry Kane’s rate of a goal every 144 minutes.
This was part of his overall tally of 17 goals in all competitions in 2019/20.
While there was a goal missing from his Europa League semi-final display, Greenwood displayed a knack of netting at vital times, with his equaliser in the penultimate league game of the season against West Ham one of these.
Greenwood will accept that he has a lot to do. He will want to win silverware to be judged as a success, as well as setting individual records.
As far as this season goes, it is beyond expectations. So often players show promise in the academy ranks, and fail to deliver.
Not since Mark Hughes in the early ’80s has a young striker come through United’s academy ranks and made such an impact. That shows how rare he is, and why the label of a ‘generational talent’ is valid.
Next season has it’s own challenges
There are dangers ahead next season, as Greenwood will feel under pressure to keep up the momentum and outscore this season.
There will not be so many ‘soft’ Europa League group stage games, with a new challenge set to present itself in the Champions League.
But we have no reason to doubt Greenwood and his ability to step up and deliver, and display his talent on the biggest club stage of all.
The big concern is one of fatigue and over exposure amid a condensed fixture list. This is one of the reasons United need to help him out and not over play him too early on, and a strong transfer window would help.
This season a step on the route to greatness
Whether it be next season Greenwood takes the step to becoming a 30 goal a season striker or more, or in a couple of years time, it feels inevitable the young forward will get there.
His game is still developing, at present he is playing out wide, when it feels long-term he will eventually become a central striker.
Greenwood has a potential to be one of United’s best ever players, if he can sustain this excellence on a long-term basis.
There is a chance we look back on this season and view it as the year Greenwood launched himself.
Lost amid the disappointment of a lack of silverware, we should appreciate what we have just seen over the past 12 months, and be confident that if Greenwood continues to develop and is surrounded by more top tier talent, trophies will only be a matter of time.
Mason Greenwood’s career so far
- 17 first team goals in his debut season
Greenwood tied a record set by George Best and Wayne Rooney on their first campaigns for the club.
- Five Europa League goals in his first season
Greenwood’s goals in the Europa League saw him become the club’s youngest ever scorer in European competition.
- 10 Premier League goals
Greenwood became the first teenager since 1997/98 to score 10 Premier League goals or more in a season.
- Absolutely prolific at youth level
Greenwood scored 31 goals in 30 under-18 games, plus five in five UEFA Youth League matches. He scored three in three FA Youth Cup games, and four in seven under-23 matches, before being fast-tracked to the first team.
- Already a Champions League scorer
Greenwood scored his first Champions League goal for Manchester United against RB Leipzig. It came with his first ever shot in the competition.
- The 20 goal mark
Greenwood scored his 20th United goal in December 2020. He became the youngest United player to do so since Norman Whiteside in 1987.
- Double figures again
Greenwood reached double figures for the second successive season in the win over Roma. He became the second United player to score in five separate competitions in the 2020/21 season, and has now netted in a European semi-final.
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