Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is “trying to ease” Mason Greenwood into Manchester United’s first team “gradually”. It’s hard to manage expectations when he’s already shown his quality as a finisher and potential as a striker.
Greenwood’s third goal for United was a composed and clever finish to open the scoring against FK Partizan at Old Trafford. It was his first start for more than a month and he showed why it’ll be hard to continue with such a gradual introduction.
The 18-year-old only had one shot in the game but it was a fine goal. His body shape, compared to that of Robin van Persie, sent the goalkeeper diving to his right.
Greenwood hooked it to the near post instead and put United in front. It’s the third time he’s hit the back of the net at Old Trafford and the third time he’s started at the Theatre of Dreams this season.
‘Gradual’ introduction of Greenwood is right
Solskjaer is right to bring him in and out of the team. He’s young and talented, yes, but still only 18. And yet already he is clinical and composed. Somehow there is more confidence in Greenwood to finish his chances than when the ball falls to the feet of Martial or Rashford.
Rashford calls Greenwood the kid. It’s four years since Rashford himself was in a similar position, though his rise was a little more dramatic and rapid. It’s a good thing, though, that Greenwood’s first season in a United shirt won’t be a sudden burst of games and goals.
His development can be managed much better. United’s coaches can hone in on the weaknesses that do exist in his game. Rashford has done well but many others failed after an introduction; think Macheda and Januzaj.
The challenge for Solskjaer is to make sure the balance is right. Greenwood has to play, that much is clear, but injury would be frustrating and too much too soon will have an effect on him.
“Mason is going to have a very good career,” Solskjaer was quoted by The Guardian after the 3-0 win. “It would not be fair to ask him to play every week. This club is all about giving young players with the right attitude a chance, but at that age you have to be careful.”
Martial return crucial to Greenwood development
The return of Martial is a big positive. It gives United the flexibility to bring Greenwood in when they can without putting too much goalscoring pressure on him. Like Rashford and Martial, he’ll benefit from some games out on the wing even though he is a natural striker.
It’s great to watch Greenwood. He’s quick but mature in his play. His ability to score with either foot is so exciting and he’s confident; he takes on players in the box and that will bring him and his teammates goals.
Solskjaer knows he has to play and a chance from the start in the Premier League should be forthcoming soon enough. For now, it’s important to remember an 18-year-old talent is not the solution to United’s problems even if he could be the next Van Persie for the Reds.
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