This article is part of Football FanCast’s One to Watch series, which focuses on those players we think are particularly worth keeping an eagle-eye on as the 2019/20 season unfolds.
Mason Greenwood offered a small beacon of light for Manchester United supporters as the darkness of a sobering season consumed Old Trafford on the final day of the 2018/19 campaign.
Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City, a side already relegated from the top flight, provided a humbling hammer blow to United’s already pummelled ego by recording a 2-0 win, but Greenwood’s compelling full debut suggested he’s a prospect worth watching in the forthcoming campaign.
Greenwood, a forward who is equally adept with both feet, has been learning his trade in the academy and working his way up to the first-team, which he eventually reached last season.
The 17-year-old forward has enjoyed a fruitful opening to his career at youth level, bagging 34 goals in 34 appearances for the U18s and scoring 3 in 6 for the U23s.
He’s played everywhere across the front three and even as a second striker, but his pre-season performances suggest he’s a played being considered as a potential solution to United’s right-wing conundrum.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has spoken candidly about the youngster, tipping him to start against Chelsea in the opening weekend of the season.
The United boss said: “He has got a chance to start that one, definitely. He is more than capable and will always be there in and around the box creating chances. I won’t say that it is not a possibility, there’s a good possibility if he keeps going as he is. It’s difficult to keep players out that perform well.”
Greenwood scored his first goal for the senior side against Leeds United and he followed that up with a wonderfully curled effort into the far corner, one reminiscent of the type of goal Robin van Persie used to score.
It’s not excessive to say that Greenwood may well be a first-team regular for United this season based on what Solskjaer has said.
With the arrival of Daniel James and the potential arrival of Paulo Dybala, Greenwood’s opportunities to be a starter may still be limited, but with United looking to compete on multiple fronts his quality may be needed in cup competitions.
Indeed, the Carabao Cup, FA Cup and Europa League games should offer a real opportunity for Greenwood to ease his way into the senior setup.
That Greenwood made his full debut in the Premier League, though, indicates that he won’t be restricted to cup appearances.
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It would be naive to argue that any one of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku – Juventus rumours notwithstanding – have convincingly earned a guaranteed place in the starting XI, so there is a real opportunity for Greenwood to embrace this season.
A good season would be getting regular game-time in some capacity; scoring and assisting a handful of goals along the way would be much more than an added bonus.
The extent of his involvement is naturally dependent on who the Red Devils bring in, but barring a dramatic influx of new attacking players, regular appearances from the substitutes bench should be a key target.
Greenwood should target (all competitions):