17-year-old Green­wood breaks United record

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By James Ducker at Old Traf­ford

It is a sure-fire sign of a player hav­ing some­thing spe­cial when he is bestowed with his own song on only his sec­ond se­nior start and, true to his new ter­race chant, Ma­son Green­wood pro­vided just the sort of “dy­na­mite” Manch­ester United needed on a dif­fi­cult night.

There is prob­a­bly never a bad time for a 17-year-old to claim his first goal for United but boy was Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer grate­ful to Green­wood for his mo­ment of in­spi­ra­tion. This was threat­en­ing to be­come an em­bar­rass­ing night’s work for a much-changed United against the cham­pi­ons of Kaza­khstan when Green­wood stepped up, grabbed a limp game by the scruff of the neck and un­der­lined why his man­ager rates him as one of the most nat­u­rally in­stinc­tive fin­ish­ers he has ever seen.

Still 12 days short of his 18th birth­day, Green­wood’s goal made him United’s youngest ever scorer in Europe, eclips­ing the record set by Mar­cus Rash­ford against Midtjyl­land in 2016. Rash­ford is an ob­vi­ous ref­er­ence point for Green­wood, a striker who has taken pre­cisely the steps the teenager is now doing, but this was a frus­trat­ing evening for the more se­nior English­man and he will have been grate­ful that Green­wood man­aged to find his way to goal be­cause it was a task that eluded him.

And what a goal it was. It was hard to pick a way through the mass of bod­ies in the penalty area when Green­wood re­ceived Fred’s pass 17 min­utes from time but the striker had only one in­ten­tion. Green­wood can shift his weight ef­fort­lessly from one side to the next, a virtue in part of be­ing com­pletely twofooted. Dorin Ro­tariu barely knew what day it was as the United striker turned in­side with his left and cre­ated enough space to drill home a pre­cise shot with his right through the legs of Ne­nad Eric, a skill in it­self. De­fend­ers will learn quickly that Green­wood can­not be pushed to­wards a weaker side be­cause he does not have one.

“Ma­son .... Green­wood’s dy­na­mite, he scores them with his left and he scores them with his right,” goes that song. There have been qual­ity play­ers who hung around for years at United and never got their own song so Green­wood should count him­self pretty priv­i­leged. Sol­sk­jaer al­lowed Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to leave this sum­mer with­out bring­ing in a re­place­ment which, in it­self, is a huge show of faith in Green­wood and this was cer­tainly a first step to­wards re­pay­ing that trust.

“It was the right de­ci­sion for the club and for him,” Sol­sk­jaer said. “He’s go­ing to be im­por­tant this sea­son. He has not played a lot so far but he will get his min­utes and he will grow and de­velop.

“He is great to watch. To get him in­side the box you know some­thing is go­ing to hap­pen, and he can go in­side, he can go out­side, it was a great fin­ish, through the legs of the keeper. It is very nat­u­ral for him to score goals. He showed glimpses of what he can be­come. He doesn’t change his de­meanour if he scores or misses.”

A new con­tract will also be on its way soon. “We are al­ways in talks with the boys,” Sol­sk­jaer said. “Ma­son is ob­vi­ously one we will want to keep with us.”

Watch the way Green­wood moves and strikes the ball and it is hard not to think of Robin van Per­sie. There is a very long way to go be­fore he can lay any sort of gen­uine com­par­i­son to the former United, Arse­nal and Holland striker but, aes­thet­i­cally, there are ob­vi­ous sim­i­lar­i­ties. This was a game Sol­sk­jaer will want to move on quickly from. “I didn’t feel con­fi­dent we were go­ing to win un­til the ref­eree blew his whis­tle,” the man­ager said.

As­tana packed men be­hind the ball and United found them hard to break down and, when they did, Rash­ford’s shoot­ing boots de­serted him. Four chances passed him by in the first pe­riod, with Fred also hit­ting the cross­bar. It was, though, all about Green­wood in the end.

Class act: Ma­son Green­wood fin­ishes clin­i­cally to seal the United vic­tory

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