Why Greenwood will succeed where Januzaj failed in United's number 11 shirt

Mason Greenwood is Manchester United’s new number 11.

The shirt has been vacant since Anthony Martial moved back into the number nine before the start of last season.

Greenwood broke onto the scene last season wearing number 26, and the move reflects his new increased status in the United squad.

Martial almost had 11 foisted upon him when Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived and took the 9.


That means the last time United entrusted the jersey worn with such distinction by Ryan Giggs onto a promising youngster was Adnan Januzaj.

Mason Greenwood’s career so far

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 10 Premier League goals

    Greenwood became the first teenager since 1997/98 to score 10 Premier League goals or more in a season.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. The 30 goal barrier

    Greenwood scored his 30th Manchester United goal in August 2021. At just 19, he became one of just three teenagers to do so for the club, along with Whiteside and George Best.

After impressing under David Moyes during the 2013/14 campaign, Januzaj took on Giggs’s legendary 11 the following year.

In truth, the Belgian international’s Red Devils career stalled after that, but we’re confident that Greenwood will succeed where he failed.

It’s easy to forget how much excitement there was around Januzaj when he first came on the scene.

Moyes compared him to Johan Cruyff (FourFourTwo) and Wayne Rooney (Telegraph), which did nothing to control the hype which was building.

That’s a contrast to how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has managed Greenwood.

He hasn’t put him in the media spotlight and he’s resisted going overboard with his comments, even though the Englishman’s talent is obvious for all to see.

Visual China Group via Getty Images/Visual China Group via Getty Images

It’s also possible that Januzaj also looked better because he was one of the only bright sparks in a truly dour United side that season.

That said, he appears to lay the blame for his career at Old Trafford crumbling at the door of Louis van Gaal.

In September 2017, Januzaj told the Daily Mail how the Dutchman – who has a great reputation for developing youngsters – killed his confidence.

There doesn’t seem to be any danger of that with Solskjaer, as far as Greenwood is concerned.

He is the ideal mentor to nurture Greenwood’s incredible finishing ability and clearly has immense faith in him to make it at United.

Greenwood is a unique talent – better than Januzaj was when he emerged – and is developing under a more supportive manager.

It’s all set up for him to succeed where Januzaj failed in terms of writing a new chapter in the legacy of the United number 11 shirt.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.