IAN LADYMAN: Mason Greenwood is a No 9 in waiting and must move to centre stage at Manchester United… Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did not get the best from him against Villarreal and paid the price
- Mason Greenwood may need to make the transition to central position soon
- The teenager is such a talented finisher he deserves chance in front of goal more
- Too often against Villarreal he was isolated out wide for Manchester United
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have to decide where he wants Greenwood to play
With 20 minutes left of normal time, Marcus Rashford missed a chance that could have settled this game earlier. Had it fallen to Mason Greenwood, it may well have been taken and United may have been spared this embarrassment.
If the most natural scorer of goals at Manchester United is the magnificent Edinson Cavani then his most natural successor is probably the kid fifteen years his junior.
At United’s Carrington training ground, they have talked about Greenwood for years. The only decision United and their manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have to make about the 19-year-old at some stage is where exactly to play him. They certainly did not get the most from him in Gdansk.
The only decision Manchester United have to make about Mason Greenwood is his position
Edinson Cavani gets centre stage but the teenage star deserves opportunities centrally
Quick and two-footed, Greenwood can play wide on either side of the field. Here he was stationed on the right and was increasingly impressive until he was rather bafflingly taken off ten minutes in to extra time.
But Greenwood is such a natural and instinctive finisher it seems inevitable he will eventually be moved in to a more central position. It feels a little as though that transition must come soon.
This was the biggest game of United’s season, indeed of Solskjaer’s reign at Old Trafford.
In the end it went badly wrong and in retrospect it was regrettable that Greenwood, one of the club’s most natural goal scorers, rarely found himself in a position to look at goal.
Greenwood was at times isolated out wide where his natural finishing can be at times wasted
With Cavani in the side, it is understandable that the Uruguayan be afforded centre stage. He is without equal at the club.
Greenwood, however, is a terrific, potent striker, a player who gets shots away off either foot. Too often in this game he seemed rather isolated in the United formation and given the amount of attacking players in this team – Rashford included – there must be a reason why they managed only three shots on target in the two hours of play that preceded the penalty shoot-out.
United were slow and predictable in the first half of normal time. As such it was not until the last minute of the opening period that Greenwood produced his first notable moment.
The 19-year-old was dangerous in wide positions but didn’t receive the ball often enough
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did not get the best out of Greenwood and has a decision to make
There was nothing mysterious about the way he surged past the Villarreal midfielder Alfonso down the United right. He just pushed the ball past him and beat him for pace on the outside before crossing low to the near post.
Two-footed, Greenwood has the ability to vex defenders when isolated against them simply because they do not know which way they will go. The problem here was that he simply was not seeing enough of the ball.
Greenwood at least tried to stick to his role. On the left Rashford too often pushed inside looking for possession and all that did was narrow the scope of United’s attacking play. He scored a very composed penalty but prior to that had a bad night.
Marcus Rashford had a frustrating night and too often narrowed United’s attacking options
Greenwood showed a little more game intelligence and at times it is hard not to compare the two players.
Rashford has been United’s great home grown attacking hope for a while now. He remains a fine player and will be in Gareth Southgate’s revised England squad of 26 that is announced next week ahead of the European Championships.
As for Greenwood, he may not make the cut. But as Solskjaer attempts to move this United side further down the road, it would not surprise many if the younger player was the one to come to the fore.
Much will depend on him. Away from the pitch, he may still need to sharpen things up. On it, he may before long need to play as a number nine.
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