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If anyone should know just how much of a baby-faced assassin Mason Greenwood is, it's the original version

Ken Lawrence


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All things point towards Greenwood having a big future at Manchester United (Martin Rickett/PA)

All things point towards Greenwood having a big future at Manchester United (Martin Rickett/PA)

All things point towards Greenwood having a big future at Manchester United (Martin Rickett/PA)

FROM one baby-faced assassin to another. 

And if anyone should know just how much of a killer Mason Greenwood is, then that would be the original version.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer today talks about how he is working on turning Manchester United into a team to fear again.

And, as an example, he name-checks the kid who is now being discussed in the same breath as George Best and Wayne Rooney, who Alan Shearer himself tips to break his Premier League record of 260 goals.

The 18-year-old's dazzling equaliser last week in the 1-1 draw that set up today's top-four, make-or-break clash with Leicester City, meant he has now equalled the record set by Best and Rooney for most goals by a teenager in a season across all competitions.

Nobody would be surprised if he were to break it this afternoon at the King Power Stadium.

Greenwood's progress this season may seem astonishing, given his tender years. And the fact that, for at least half of the campaign, he was playing for a team that was fearful rather than fearless.

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was a fan favourite during his playing days (Martin Rickett/PA)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was a fan favourite during his playing days (Martin Rickett/PA)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was a fan favourite during his playing days (Martin Rickett/PA)

Solskjaer was given his famous nickname because of his boyish looks.

Yet he was actually aged 26 when he scored the injury-time winner in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich that completed United's history-making treble of 1999 and defined the reign of Alex Ferguson.

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It was also only his 12th goal from 19 games that iconic season.

Greenwood will be making his 47th senior appearance in his breakthrough year – although he also played, and scored, for United's under-21 team in a 2-1 victory over Doncaster Rovers back in October.

If any youngster – since Best or Rooney – proved the point that if you are good enough, you are old enough, then it is the most exciting striking talent to have broken through at Old Trafford since the legendary Northern Irishman himself.

Clinical

And that includes the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and David Beckham of the modern era at the club.

It is little surprise, then, to hear Solskjaer utilise Greenwood as the personification of the new more clinical and lethal personality that is developing in his team – no matter that they struggled so badly against ex-manager David Moyes' survivors West Ham in midweek.

Or that in the previous game they lost 3-1 to top-four rivals Chelsea.

Solskjaer's belief that he is instilling a killer mentality into his players is not going to be swayed by a couple of results, not when he can see the progress the team have made since Christmas especially.

He also points out that when it comes to young players he is sticking to the very principles that were set in stone by Matt Busby and followed to the letter by Ferguson.

He declares: "Mason brings that lack of fear, that attitude, a mind-set that is crucial.

"It is about your temperament, how you see things, how you prepare and with our kids, they have no fear.

"We want them to take risks, we want them to express themselves, we want them to know that when they make mistakes – and everyone does – they need not fear us having a problem with that.

"We are trying to build a team that can win trophies. One that can put fear into teams without fearing for ourselves.

"That is the DNA of this club and we are beginning to look more like the Man United team I want us to look like."

The outcome of this afternoon's visit to the Champions League last-chance saloon will be huge.

Only a point is needed to make next season's tournament, although Solskjaer – thanks to a 5-0 first-leg away win against LASK – can already look ahead to the Europa League quarter-finals and a route into the showpiece by winning the also-rans version of European competition.

As he has hinted, the purchases of £100m target Jadon Sancho and £50m-rated Jack Grealish could depend on where United will be visiting on the continent next season.

Making the Champions League can be worth up to £100m to the winners and getting there would be huge for his own credibility – just as much as it would be for so many of the players who are much older than Greenwood.

Yet he is adamant that he and his team have the right stuff to get the job done.

Living with pressure, he says, is also part of the DNA of a United player as he stresses: "At this club the next game is always the most important of the season.

"We have given ourselves a fantastic chance to qualify, via our league results, for the Champions League.

"If you want to be part of Manchester United then you should be getting used to win-or-bust games.

"Hopefully from this game against Leicester there will be more than just making the top four to come – there will be cup finals, trophies, league titles.

"This game against Leicester is a chance to learn how to deal with such pressures.

"It has never been about me on a personal level. We want to reach the next level.

"This is a journey I'm on with this club and we are getting better. No question.

"There are many factors in that – the belief, the confidence, Bruno Fernandes has made a massive difference.

"We have got our best players fit and ready to go and they have believed in and trusted what we – me and the coaching staff – have said.

"The fitness levels are so much higher than last season. We are far more robust as a team.

"Now we are beginning to look ahead to Champions League finals, to winning the Premier League again.

"We are doing so without fear but making Old Trafford a place to fear when visiting teams come here.

"I was brought in to make this team look like the real Manchester United again – and that's what is happening.

"The Leicester game is just the next step, the next part of the journey.

"And we will get there."


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