Diogo Dalot and Bruno Fernandes might have to find a new pastime after this…
Ask any Manchester United fan about the post-Fergie era and chances are they’ll either attack you or start crying on your shoulder.
It’s been a rough few years for Red Devils supporters, with plenty of young talents punching through, only to have their potential snuffed out and end up at the likes of Bradford in League 2.
Prodigy Mason Greenwood seems to be the exception to this rule.
I was lucky enough to witness him during United’s pre-season tour, when they battered Leeds in Perth, and what I saw immensely impressed me. He’s a good enough finisher – that’s obvious from watching him play – but it’s his tactical awareness and nous to get in those good positions that makes him exciting.
His goal against Partizan a few weeks ago in the Europa League is prime evidence of this. As United work it from left to right, he is exactly where he needs to be. It’s not a crowded box so he uses his space effectively, meaning when the ball is played to him he’s carved out enough real estate for a touch inside and a smart finish between defender and goalkeeper. In the home leg against Astana, it were his technical gifts that generated a quality strike that beat the keeper.
Looking at those two goals in isolation, it is clear the kid possesses quality. The Premier League has been harder for him, scoring once in 11 matches to date, although in fairness he is yet to receive a league start.
His lack of Premier League goals may not be a bad thing. We all remember flash in the pan Federico Macheda, whose burning flame was extinguished as soon as it was lit. It’s clear that the next generation is the current focus of United, but is Greenwood the right man to pin the hopes on?
Out of the current crop, the answer appears to be yes. Dutch winger Tahith Chong hasn’t set the world on fire and while Brandon Williams is good, he has big challenges to come.
Greenwood unquestionably has the natural talent and quality to become one of the top strikers in the Premier League, but is the unstable Manchester United environment the best place for him right now?
A loan move appears to be the best option. With Marcus Rashford slowly starting to put everything together and the potential arrival of another striker in January, it may be time to get Greenwood out on loan during the upcoming window.
There would be reluctance, but you only needs to look at Tammy Abraham, who spent seasons at Bristol and Aston Villa in the Championship, book-ending a tough Premier League stint at Swansea. Abraham tormented the second tier last season and this year has rollicked the reinvigorated Chelsea into a new era under icon Frank Lampard.
Rewind to that stint at Bristol, where he was a teenager and banged in 23 goals, and a potential parallel can be drawn between him and Greenwood. Give him time to mature in the Championship, away from the noise and theatrics that come from being involved in a top-six side, much less that with the world power of Manchester United.
It should have happened with Marcus Rashford while the striking stocks were much stronger. While Rashford is a handy player and is seemingly piecing things together now, a loan move could have altered trajectories for the better.
Mason Greenwood will be a quality Premier League striker one day, but to become an elite one, he needs some time away from Manchester United to afford him the ability to mature, develop and ultimately thrive during this transitional time for the Red Devils.
He has the skill set, now he needs the experience.