When Mason Greenwood began his 2021/22 campaign with Manchester United, he looked like a warrior heading for battle.
It all began during United’s pre-season when the 20-year-old returned to training as a different specimen of a player. He muscled in physique and was showing all the signs needed to progress his development.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer introduced Greenwood to United’s senior squad as a right-winger, playing down the channel in whatever opportunity he was given. Although he was given his debut in the 2018/19 season, it was in 2019/20 that he began to make a name for himself.
In his full-debut season for United, Greenwood scored 19 goals across all competitions, including five in nine appearances in the Europa League campaign. It was so explosive that his name was getting recognised across Europe.
In his final eight Premier League appearances for United last season, he scored six goals and provided one assist, which showed to everyone that he was back to his best.
Was there anticipation for Greenwood this season? Absolutely, when you consider how he was playing beforehand and how his physique changed. People were expecting big things.
When the season started, a lot of United supporters thought that Greenwood, Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani were going to be United’s options in the striker position and, although some like Gary Neville disagreed, there were many who thought that was enough for Solskjaer, as long as he strengthened in other positions.
Cavani was out at the start of the season and Anthony Martial had only just returned from a long-term injury, so Solskjaer opted to start Greenwood as the number nine for United’s opening game of the season against Leeds United. The result? A 5-1 victory and a striker’s performance was perfection. In the game, his hold-up play was superb, he scored a wonderful goal, had a passing accuracy of 88 per cent and completed five successful dribbles. It was a sensational display.
Greenwood was sensational against Leeds United (Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images) Greenwood continued his goalscoring form in United’s next fixtures against Southampton and Wolves. At St. Mary’s, he managed to notch his goal when Solskjaer moved him from the right to the middle, and he fired in a brilliant finish off the right-hand side at Molineux to seal the three points for his team.
But there was a change, which might’ve deterred Greenwood’s goalscoring ability. Do you know what it is? It was the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo.
The 36-year-old was brought in by Solskjaer to add more goals to an already talented attacking forward-line and there’s no doubt he’s had a monumental impact at Old Trafford. He’s scored nine goals in 12 appearances and has become the talisman of the club.
However, since Ronaldo has come into to club, it’s meant there’s been a lack of opportunities for Greenwood in the striking position. The result? Well, he’s only scored one goal since the Portuguese international’s arrival and has predominantly played as a right-winger.
The problem for Greenwood is that his attributes are more tailored towards a sole striker. After all, this is where he played the majority of his matches at the youth level. You can tell that whenever he receives the ball, his first thought is to always have a shot on goal or try and create space for himself to get into a goalscoring opportunity. He has a striker’s instinct which, unfortunately, isn’t suited to the right-hand channel.
How does Solskjaer rectify this? He tried playing Ronaldo and Greenwood up top in the Manchester derby, but that didn’t work as both of them don’t press as much as other team members in the squad.
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So, I think the best solution is to bring him off the bench so he can have an instant impact. It’s going to take time for him to become United’s main forward, but this has to be the start and Solskjaer must realise this.
He’s clearly suffering from the position switch, and although he’s played most of his games there for United, he was clearly training to make that transition into a forward.
Solskjaer must do what it takes to keep him as a striker, even if that means using him as a substitute in some games.
Should Greenwood be playing as a striker? Follow our United On My Mind writer Omar Garrick on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts on the matter in the comments section below.