It was a surprise to see Mason Greenwood named in Manchester United’s under-21 side against Doncaster last night.
Greenwood was left out of the Europa League squad to face Partizan, so that he could play for the under-23s vs Stoke on Friday.
It had been assumed that he was being saved for the Chelsea fixture on Wednesday night.
Instead United chose to select him in the EFL Trophy, and he popped up and scored the winner in injury time in a 2-1 victory.
It’s possible of course that United could send him down to Stamford Bridge to sit on the bench and use him as a late substitute against Chelsea still, but after he played a full 90 minutes, it’s pretty unlikely.
What does it tell us?
Clearly Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is still trying to manage Greenwood’s minutes really carefully.
He is also seemingly taking the Chelsea game pretty seriously. One or both of Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial will start.
It’s evident Solskjaer sees the game as one he can’t take lightly, and as an opportunity to move a step closer to silverware.
That means for now, Greenwood has to wait. Even after just signing a new deal.
Relax, chances are coming
United know what we have with Greenwood. He’s lethal. We’ve seen it already this season. Martial’s return means there is no immediate rush.
But you only have to look at United’s fixture list to realise more Greenwood chances are imminent.
Both the games Greenwood has missed are tough away fixtures, Partizan and Chelsea.
He still needs minutes for development, so if he wasn’t going to get the full games in both, it’s better he gets the full 180 minutes he has at youth level over the past five days.
There are two Europa League home games which stand out as good opportunities for Greenwood, at home to Partizan, and at home to Alkmaar. Then there is also an away fixture to Astana.
Greenwood has a decent chance of starting two, possible all three of these matches. If United beat Partizan, qualification may already be sealed ahead of the final two matches, taking the pressure off.
He has scored in both matches over the past week. This will boost his confidence further heading into his next first team games.
If his United teammates beat Chelsea and land a good draw, there could be another Carabao Cup game for Greenwood too.
With strong performances, he can state a case for a first Premier League start. Perhaps Solskjaer has got it wrong, and he’s missing an opportunity to throw Greenwood in this week, but at least there seems to be a plan in place.
It’s not quite November yet, and Greenwood is on schedule. He’s scored first team goals already this season and he’s just turned 18.
He will get his chances, and so will Tahith Chong, who is in a similar situation.
There’s no need to panic, or be outraged over his absence from the first team in recent games. He was still on the bench against Norwich on Saturday in the Premier League and came on at the end. He’s in Solskjaer’s plans.
Just a little more patience is required. United might just be being smart.
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