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Mason Greenwood giving Manchester United new dimension on right wing
Manchester United's 3-0 win over Brighton featured another goal by Mason Greenwood and his impact is just another reason to be excited about this new-look team, writes Adam Bate...
Last Updated: 01/07/20 1:07pm
Mason Greenwood continues to impress. This was only his sixth Premier League start of the season – only his seventh ever – and he marked it with his sixth goal in the competition, the opener in an emphatic 3-0 win away to Brighton that lifts Manchester United back to fifth.
The 18-year-old forward is the first United player to score this many Premier League goals before his 19th birthday. The youngest player of any club to score at all in the competition this season, Greenwood has twice as many goals as any other teenager. This is a precocious talent.
There was a lot of hype to live up to. Marcus Rashford calls him frightening. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer rates him as the best finisher at the club. Speaking to Luke Shaw back in August, he declared that Greenwood "can be one of the best in the world" before too long.
Right now, he is just one of the reasons to be excited about Manchester United again.
This was one of their most convincing performances of the season against a Brighton side that had taken points off Leicester and Arsenal since the restart. United outplayed them and the result was never in doubt from the moment Greenwood fired the ball past Mat Ryan.
Much of the plaudits will be sent in the direction of Bruno Fernandes, the January signing whose arrival has not only turned around the club's season but changed their whole game.
Now alongside Paul Pogba, Fernandes' presence on the pitch has helped to increase the quality and speed of United's passing and when Gary Neville says that the Portuguese midfielder has "got the whole team playing" it is impossible to disagree with the sentiment.
But there has not just been one change - not even two if Pogba's return is included. Greenwood is beginning to add a new dimension to United on the right side of their attack.
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It feels churlish to criticise Daniel James. The 22-year-old winger is still in his first season at the club following his surprise move from Championship club Swansea last summer.
But Greenwood's goal record speaks for itself. Since getting off the mark with the winner against Astana in September, he has scored 13 goals to James' one despite starting far fewer games than his rival for the spot on United's right. It is a battle he looks to have won.
"He has justified his selection on that right side," said Neville. "It is getting to the point now where it is going to be impossible to leave him out. He reminds me so much of Robin van Persie, when he cuts in on his left foot off that right side, the composure and technique."
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There was so much to enjoy about his goal. Collecting the pass on the half turn, he evaded Dale Stephens with ease before dazzling with a double stepover and coming up with a disguised finish to defeat the goalkeeper.
It was a piece of play that just oozed quality.
"He has got a knack of that," Solskjaer told Sky Sports afterwards. "He can go inside and he can go outside. He is just as good with his right foot as his left foot so he is developing into a fine player."
Greenwood's involvement in United's third goal was almost as impressive. He led the counter-attack in racing away with the ball on the left before showing great vision and calmness to steady himself before picking out Fernandes at the far post to volley home.
In between, he took care of the ball when he needed to and worked back when it was required. One foul on Aaron Connolly, in particular, prevented a dangerous-looking breakaway.
"We know that when he gets faced up and looking forward he's dangerous but then I thought his hold-up play and his general link-up play today was great," added Solskjaer.
Greenwood is at home in this team now and it feels telling that he has now started back-to-back Premier League games. He has Solskjaer's trust and he is part of this new-look line-up.
United are 15 unbeaten and optimism abounds. It might have been sparked by Fernandes, a worthy man of the match, but it is compounded by the burgeoning talent of a youngster from much closer to home.