Mason Greenwood showed exactly why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer backed him as Manchester United’s best finisher… the teenager stole the show with his brace against Bournemouth and the sky really is the limit
No wonder Ole Gunnar Solskjaer talks up Mason Greenwood the way he does. There is something of the cold-eyed assassin in Greenwood that reminds you of Solskjaer in his pomp at Manchester United.
United’s manager insists the teenager is even better than him at the same age, and he may well be right. But the comparisons are clear enough. The predatory instinct that kicks in when the goal is in sight, the nerveless preparation, and clinical execution.
Solskjaer has described Greenwood as the best finisher at the club, which is saying something when you look at some of his team-mates. Anthony Martial scored an exquisite goal against Bournemouth and Marcus Rashford joined the Frenchman on 20 goals for the season when he scored from the penalty spot in a 5-2 win. Bruno Fernandes weighed in with another goal too.
Mason Greenwood continued to show promise for United with a brace against Bournemouth
The teenager stole the show as he bagged a brace to take him to 15 goals for the season
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he is the club’s best finisher and Greenwood provided answers
But it was Greenwood who stole the show with two excellent strikes – one to fire United level against a team lying second from bottom of the Premier League and the second to pull them clear when Bournemouth were threatening a comeback in the second half.
The youngster now has 15 goals for the season and eight in the Premier League, making him the highest-scoring player aged 18 or below in the top-flight since Wayne Rooney scored nine for Everton in the 2003-04 season.
Comparisons will inevitably be made there as well. Greenwood is not an early developer like Rooney, but it has been noted how much he has filled out physically by following a weights programme during lockdown.
The comparisons to Solskjaer in his pomp are clear – the predatory instinct and execution
The ‘sky is the limit’ for Greenwood, according to Red Devils manager Solskjaer
Mentally too the player has overcome some concerns over his maturity and readiness to play first-team football at such an early age, and removed any lingering doubts this season.
On the eve of the Bournemouth game, Solskjaer said the ‘sky is the limit’ for Greenwood after he scored one and set up another for Fernandes in Tuesday’s win at Brighton.
Asked if he was in danger of putting too much pressure on the player, the United boss said: ‘I don’t think it puts any more pressure on him. He’s not coming in as the saviour, he’s coming in to learn. He’s a boy that can still play in this season’s FA Youth Cup. He’s just taken it in his stride.’
He showed so much confidence and focus in his goals despite being placed under pressure
Here, at Old Trafford, Greenwood provided his own answers. When Fernandes picked him out just before the half hour mark with United trailing by a goal, there was just enough weight on the pass for Greenwood to control the ball and tee it up for a shot with one touch.
He was under pressure from Adam Smith but he didn’t flinch. The focus was entirely on making the best connection possible with the ball which flew off his left foot. Aaron Ramsdale got a hand to it but that didn’t matter, there was enough power on the shot to take it past the Bournemouth keeper and into the back of the net.
When Greenwood struck again in the 54th minute, United were badly in need of a goal again but this time to kill off Bournemouth who had pulled it back to 3-2 and just had an equaliser by substitute Arnaut Danjuma disallowed for offside.
Eddie Howe’s side were defending in numbers on the edge of their own box again when Nemanja Matic touched the ball to Greenwood. There seemed little danger, even as he set off across the pitch on a run that took him away from Diego Rico.
Bournemouth’s Josh King was a target for United in January but was upstaged by Greenwood
If Greenwood carries on in this vein, Solskjaer won’t be able to overlook him in the future
But Greenwood already knew what he was going to do. His mind was made up and he had the confidence to do it. He clipped an exquisite shot back across goal, beyond Ramsdale and into the top corner. It was a fantastic goal and only more so for the young man’s audacity.
Greenwood really is an exciting prospect and it will be interesting to see how United handle his progress given that Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish are on their list of transfer targets and they may also sign a new striker.
They made a bid for Josh King before signing Odion Ighalo in January and the Bournemouth striker scored from the penalty spot here, but he was upstaged by Greenwood before United’s No.26 was replaced by Dan James in the 75th minute.
A first-choice United team has emerged since the restart and Greenwood is part of it. If he keeps playing like this, Solskjaer won’t be able to overlook him anytime soon.