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'Level-headed' Greenwood still looks to Rashford for inspiration


Manchester United's Mason Greenwood. Photo: Reuters

Manchester United's Mason Greenwood. Photo: Reuters

Manchester United's Mason Greenwood. Photo: Reuters

Mason Greenwood fired his way into the record books with a goal that prevented Manchester United's Europa League campaign from getting off to a sticky start against the champions of Kazakhstan.

There have been 16 more goals for Greenwood since that September night, when Astana were among the first to suffer at the hands of United's teenage sensation and he became the club's youngest scorer in European competition, eclipsing a record set three years earlier by his mentor, Marcus Rashford.

If Astana did not get much in the way of a warning about Greenwood's considerable talents, Copenhagen will have had plenty as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer prepares to restore his first-choice attack to the starting XI for tonight's Europa League quarter-final against the Danish club in Cologne.

Certainly until the late introduction of Anthony Martial, United looked pretty toothless in attack during last week's tepid 2-1 win over LASK.

But Greenwood, Rashford and Martial should give United a far greater cutting edge. Between them, they have scored 62 goals this season and Solskjaer believes they are egging each other on.

"Scoring goals is always good for strikers and seeing others score goals - it gives you a little bit of an edge, that you don't want to be behind them," the United manager said. "But you also play for the team and the three of them have been backing each other up. I hope they will continue their development."

Greenwood would agree with that. He watched the meteoric rise of Rashford, who is four years his senior, and was inspired to do the same.

Greenwood said: "When I was younger, I looked up to Marcus, Jesse (Lingard), Scott (McTominay), all of them coming through. I was thinking, 'If you're doing it, I can do it as well'. They give you a nice footpath and a clear way through to the first team.

"I'm doing it now and I've just got to keep staying level-headed and carry on working hard because I've got a long way to go yet."

Greenwood has been used primarily on the right side of that trident, a position Jadon Sancho could yet fill should United agree a fee with Borussia Dortmund for the England winger.

In time, Greenwood may be used predominantly through the middle but, wherever he plays, he looks a born goalscorer and the 18-year-old believes he has only scraped the surface so far.

"You can always get better, you can always go the extra mile," Greenwood said. "There's no stopping; you can always be a better player. There's no limit."

Only six players, including United's Bruno Fernandes, have scored more than Greenwood's five goals in the Europa League this term and he hopes there will be more to follow against Copenhagen, including one with his head.

"Obviously I've done well in the Europa League this season," he said. "I've taken my chances to play as well. "I think in headed goals (I can get better). I've not scored a headed goal in the first team this season."

Solskjaer must decide whether to keep faith with Sergio Romero or restore David De Gea in goal and seemed to hint at Dean Henderson going out on loan again next season after admitting he could not have all three goalkeepers in his squad next term.

Three games stand between United and a second Europa League triumph in three years but, while the club are no longer dependent on winning the competition to secure Champions League qualification after their top-three finish in the Premier League, Solskjaer does not believe that lessens the pressure.

He said: "I don't think so because we went into this season knowing the Europa League is a great chance for us - one to get a trophy, but also to groom a few of the youngsters.

"We all want to play in the Champions League but maybe we wouldn't have had the chance to play the likes of Mason and Brandon (Williams) without the Europa League."


Of course, the United boss knows a thing or two about Copenhagen's manager, having played alongside Stale Solbakken for Norway and shadowed him for a short while as a young coach in 2011.

The former midfielder played for, among others, Wimbledon in a career cut short by a heart issue.

Solbakken started his coaching journey at HamKam, before enjoying a successful stint as Copenhagen manager between 2006 and 2011.

Short spells at the helm of Cologne, where this quarter-final is being held, and Wolves, another of this season's Europa League quarter-finalists, followed before returning to FCK in 2013.

Solbakken has won eight Danish titles and four domestic cups across his two spells at the club.

© The Daily Telegraph, London

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