Another day, another goal for Mason Greenwood as the Manchester United striker continues to impress any football fan with eyes.
It was a slow start to the 2020/21 season for the now 19-year-old, as he scored just three times in his first 22 appearances – following a breakthrough season in United red that had seen him score 17 goals and earn a call-up to England’s senior side.
He’d even made his debut against Iceland in September’s UEFA Nations League clash, only for controversy to strike Greenwood‘s career for the first time as he was sent home along with Phil Foden.
After that, he went through personal issues off the field, too – losing a close friend as well as struggling with the amount of media attention he was receiving. But the turn of the year brought about a notable improvement in Greenwood’s play, with a more complete skillset and better all round performances. Despite playing better, the goals still wouldn’t quite fall for him.
Now, happily, it’s a different story.
Credit must go to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for protecting his star asset. Greenwood was wrapped in cotton wool and kept away from media duties while he continued to feature in the majority of United’s games, despite his poor form. That allowed him to focus on improving and he’s now reaping the rewards.
Playing off either the right-wing or as a central striker, the United academy graduate has scored eight goals in his last 11 games to surpass double figures for the second season in a row. Such form has not just come at the right time for United, it’s come at the right time for Greenwood as well.
England are preparing to announce their squad for this summer’s delayed Euro 2020, and Greenwood may previously have thought he’s unlikely to be selected. Gareth Southgate has an abundance of quality attacking talent to choose from, after all, many of whom have been in-form throughout the season.
Luckily, UEFA recently announced that each international squad would consist of 26 players rather than the traditional 23, to help alleviate the demands of a long COVID-19 impacted season. It means there will likely an extra spot in each of the outfield thirds of the pitch, allowing Southgate more wiggle room when he tries to balance the make-up of his squad.
Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford are dead certs for the squad (fitness permitting), while it’s largely expected that Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, and Dominic Calvert-Lewin will also be selected.
But as good as they all are, there’s no player more in the zone than Greenwood right now. Danny Ings is another option who is scoring goals, yes, and Ollie Watkins looks sharp too – but not in comparison to a dazzling teenager who looks to have found his mojo again at Old Trafford.
While Watkins and Ings have outscored Greenwood across all competitions, the youngster has shown ability to play across the front-line rather than just as a central striker, and also has an X-factor they both lack.
Take his two most recent goals for example, against Aston Villa and then Leicester. Tightly marked by England international Tyrone Mings, Greenwood was able to turn him on the edge of the box with his right foot before smashing the ball past Emi Martinez at the near post. A trademark finish of his at this point and something that other than Kane, you wouldn’t back anyone else in the squad to pull off.
Then, against Leicester, Greenwood received the ball facing the goal, slalomed past two defenders with quick feet, before sliding the ball past Kasper Schmeichel’s outstretched right foot.
Two very different finishes, one with each foot, showing attributes that nobody else in the squad possesses. Granted, Greenwood is a raw talent, but he’s also an intelligent footballer. He links up play brilliantly, is quick and strong, possesses fantastic technique and, above all else, has a maturity about him despite his tender years.
At major international tournaments, you win trophies with difference makers. Players capable of pulling off the spectacular when others can’t. Greenwood, although not the complete package, is the next best thing behind Kane – and is surely a must-pick when Southgate names his squad on 25 May.